It should already have been submitted, but in to a surprise move by the Government to apply for an extension beyond the 8 June general election, there is still no nation-wide plan on tackling the growing issue of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions and poor air quality.

Environment secretary, Andrea Leadsom told Parliament on 24 April – the day on which the draft report should have been published – that the Government had applied to the courts to instead publish a draft plan by 30 June and a final plan by 15 September 2017.

A hearing into the application to delay the publication is due to take place on Thursday at the High Court.

Leadsom cited the purdah period that comes with the calling of a general election as the reason behind the application for the extension, but insisted that the Government does have a plan ready. She said in parliament: “Governments normally seek to avoid launching consultation exercises during purdah periods. It is absolutely vital that we get this done, and our intention is to publish the plan on 30 June.”

James Thornton, CEO of the ClientEarth environmental law group responded by saying: “The unacceptable last minute nature of the Government’s application late on Friday night, after the court had closed, has meant that we have spent the weekend considering our response.

“We are still examining our next steps. This is a question of public health and not of politics and for that reason we believe that the plans should be put in place without delay.

“Whichever party ends up in power after the June the 8th will need this Air Quality Plan to begin finally to tackle our illegal levels of pollution and prevent further illness and early deaths from poisonous toxins in the air we breathe. The government has had five months to draft this plan and it should be published.”

According to NHS estimates, poor air quality is responsible for 40,000 premature deaths across the country every year and the situation has, according to the Environment, food and Rural Affairs committee become a “public health emergency”.

ClientEarth claimed that 37 out of 43 regions are in breach of legal limits at present.

Furthermore, Sue Hayman, the Labour MP for Workington told Parliament: “Cabinet Office rules are clear that purdah is not an excuse to delay acting on vital public health matters. Will she confirm that the plans are ready for publication? If she agrees that this is a public health emergency, why the delay?”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn was also disappointed, saying: “I am deeply disappointed that ministers have missed a golden opportunity to show real leadership and urgently introduce new plans to deal with our filthy air. This could have been done well before the pre-election period started had the government treated this as a priority as I do.

“Everyone deserves the right to breathe clean air and any delay in addressing air quality is a slap in the face to every person struggling to breathe, from the young children in London growing up with under-developed lungs, to the millions of asthma sufferers in the UK.”