Air pollution levels in several UK cities and towns is worse than previously estimated, according to new Government plans ordered by the High Court following legal action by ClientEarth in 2016.

In a 2016 High Court case brought against the Government by ClientEarth, the Environment Secretary and Defra were ruled to have "failed to take measures that would bring the UK into compliance with the law" while using "over-optimistic" pollution modelling in their policy calculations.

The new plan was required by law to address the Government's planned response to illegal levels of air pollution in 33 of England's local authorities.

However, the new report has revealed that eight of those authorities have worse air pollution levels than the Government's previous figures showed.

After local authorities were legally obliged to engage in more detailed pollution studies, areas with worse-than-predicted levels include Bradford, Bolsover, Broxbourne, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Portsmouth and Stoke-on-Trent.

Katie Nield, clean air lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “It’s absolutely staggering that only now, eight years after legal limits came into force, the true extent of the problem is being uncovered for large areas of the country.

“In the meantime, people in these areas have continued to be exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution.”

Without action and further engagement by ClientEarth, the organisation says, London's earliest forecast for its compliance date would leave local people waiting for legal pollution levels until 2028 – long after legal limits came into effect in 2010.

ClientEarth is supporting calls for the Government to implement a wider network of CAZs, with scrappage schemes to incentivise uptake of cleaner vehicles and further legislation to protect the population from harmful air pollution.