Today the High Court will hear a fresh judicial review challenge on HS2, this time challenging the decision by the Secretary of State for Transport to issue safeguarding directions without first undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment.
The hearing has been listed for one day only with judgment likely to be reserved and issued at a later date. The case is being heard by Mr Justice Lindblom.
If the High Court hearing on safeguarding is successful, the current ban on developing land identified for the route of Phase 1 of HS2 would be lifted and could not be reinstated until the Government has completed a valid environmental assessment.
This is only one of several legal challenges against HS2 currently being undertaken.
As we reported last month, Andrew Green brought an action under Environmental Information Regulations to force the government to release passenger loading data. The judge allowed three weeks for further evidence to be brought, which runs out this week.
And there is an on-going case between the Information Commissioner and the Government over the release of the 2011 MPA report into HS2. In this case, the judge has just set a preliminary oral hearing to be held on the 23rd June to deal with time tabling issues. Last week the MPA boss, John Manzoni, was questioned by the Public Accounts Committee as to why Freedom of Information requests about reports were refused.
Speaking about today’s case, Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said: “Despite the Government telling us that resistance is futile, we will continue our fight against this flawed plan, however long it takes. This is not a done deal and we will continue to challenge the Government. “We also remain committed to assisting residents groups and local businesses and will continue to help wherever possible with the resources and support people need.”
Hilary Wharf, director, HS2 Action Alliance, said; “Since the start of this project there has been a sorry story of the Government trying to avoid important environmental protection requirements which are enshrined in law. We believe that the same environmental and planning law standards should apply to HS2 as any other project, and we are prepared to go to the High Court to protect that principle”.
Lottie Jones, chair of Ruislip against HS2, said: “Hillingdon Against HS2 are glad to see this important issue being bought before the courts. “We are grateful to Hillingdon Council for their ongoing support and determination to prevent this government pushing ahead with HS2 when it is still so fundamentally flawed. “We hope the outcome will mean the government taking the correct responsibility for it’s planning processes, which we believe, when it comes to HS2, they have failed to do.”
The London Borough of Hillingdon – like other areas affected by HS2 – is facing massive disruption over many years should the current plans for HS2 proceed, including the placement of a new landfill directly next to thousands of homes which would be one of Europe’s largest. The recent Environmental Statement for HS2 detailed a significant number of adverse environmental impacts in the borough including loss of important amenities such as the Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre, numerous wildlife sites, disruption to traffic and local businesses over many years.