Last week, papers carried headlines along the lines of “Chris Grayling wins legal fight to stop HS2 campaigners protesting HS2 at Colne Valley Park”, following a successful application at the High Court for an injunction. However, whilst the Transport Secretary had won an injunction to stop ‘unlawful’ protests on the construction site, this only prevents some type of protest on the site, and the direct action at Colne Valley has continued.
The court was told that there have been as many as 31 incidents since October 2017 where protestors had chained or attached themselves with locks to machinery or trees to obstruct the cutting of trees in the Denham Country Park.
Mr Justice Barling agreed that HS2 was controversial, praised campaigners’ commitment and suggested that many people would support their opposition to the project saying they were “committed environmentalists” and “their motives are entirely laudable,”, but ruled in favour of Mr Grayling and HS2 bosses saying that workers at the site were operating lawfully and that there was no legal justification for trespassing or blocking vehicles.
This is the first time ministers had taken legal action in a bid to stop an HS2 protest.
However, the effect of the injunction is simply to escalate trespassing on private land from a civil offence to a criminal offence, meaning the police instead of bailiffs would take action to remove protestors – but only if such a protest had been committed by one of the eight people named in the injunction. This means other campaigners will continue to protest in this manner and the ones named in the injunction will have to do other things elsewhere.
Sarah Green, who started the original occupation in October 2017 and was one of those named in the injunction said the judge’s remarks did not mean protesting had to stop and had actually left her encouraged, saying:
“The injunction stops anyone from trespassing on the land and they have created zones outside their works entrances where activities can’t take place, but we are not going to stop protesting. There are people there on Harvil Road every day.”
Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley added:
“This is an attack on democracy but the campaign against HS2 won’t be silenced. HS2 is environmental vandalism and no amount of greenwashing will mask the destruction. It makes no environmental sense and no economic sense. We will fight it.”
“We will continue to stand in solidarity with campaigners putting their bodies on the line in the fight to stop this vanity project. HS2 will trample communities, businesses and nearly a hundred ancient woodlands. It is environmental vandalism and it must be stopped.”