Just a fortnight after Prime Minister David Cameron called for cutting access to justice relating to planning, wanting to make it harder to apply for Judicial Reviews, five such legal challenges will be heard into HS2, starting on December 3rd. The legal challenges are being taken by 51m, a group representing 15 councils along the route, HS2 Action Alliance, Heathrow Hub Ltd and Aylesbury Park Golf Club.
Issues which the Judicial Reviews are being taken on include; an inadequate consultation including the failure to provide accurate information, failure to comply to environmental statute, failure to assess the impact on communities, failure to adequately assess alternatives, failure to consider the impact of HS2 on other parts of the transport infrastructure, the chosen route including changing parts of the route post-consultation, and that the decision on compensation failed to meet Government promises and relied on undisclosed information.
While opponents of HS2 have been attacked and dismissed by supporters as simply ‘nimbies’, those expressing serious questions over the case for HS2 have included; Rob Holden the Chair of HS1, and other rail experts such as Railfuture, Chris Stokes and Christian Wolmar, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Taxpayers Alliance and the Adam Smith Institute, and the Chair of the Public accounts Committee Margaret Hodge MP.
Opponents of HS2 will be holding a photo opportunity and press call outside the Royal Courts of Justice from 9-10am on Monday 3rd December. Photos will be available on the Stop HS2 website shortly after the event.
HS2 Ltd are currently carrying out a consultation road show around compensation and land referencing. On Monday 3rd December, they will be at the Barn Hotel, West End Road, Ruislip, Middlesex HA4 6JB from 12pm to 8pm, with the Stop HS2 inflatable White Elephant in attendance. On the last day of the Judicial Review, there will be a similar event at The Kenilworth Centre, Abbey End Car Park, Kenilworth CV8 1QJ.
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“We have been waiting for our day in court for a long while and it is a shame it has had to come to this, but the Government have failed to listen to any point we have made so far, they have failed to consult properly and they have failed to do what is required of them. From start to finish, the Government has been obsessed with speed, rushing HS2 through, without the slightest consideration about doing things properly or fairly. We have seen how the Government failed so badly with their figures on the West Coast Mainline Franchise, and while they still regard those passenger numbers as a state secret and refuse to release them, the same people have been involved and they have made the same mistakes.”
“The Government seem to be making out that they believe any of their infrastructure plans should be above the law, but as the previous Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening said when she was in opposing plans to expand Heathrow ‘If the Government will not listen in Parliament, then ministers will find they have to listen in the courts.’. Now it is our turn and it is not right that we have to go to court to be heard, but it is all we can do and now David Cameron wants to stop even this last line of defence.”
Penny Gaines, Chair of Stop HS2 said;
“It is important for a democratic society that the public can hold the Government to account, to ensure they follow the right procedures when developing plans. For an infrastructure project on the scale of HS2, it is vital that the Government follows the most rigorous standards of consultation and planning. The Department for Transport have failed in their duty to adequately assess the environmental impact of HS2. For a government that claimed it would be the ‘greenest government ever’, their intention to ‘crack on’ with HS2 without proper environmental assessment shows that was just empty rhetoric.”
“With the 2011 HS2 consultation, it is clear there have been huge failings. Given that during their original analysis, the Department for Transport ignored consultation responses from some of the groups bringing the Judicial Reviews – such as Heathrow Hub, HS2AA, and Cherwell District Council – it is clear that the consultation was not fit for purpose. The WCML franchise judicial review process highlighted huge failings within the Department of Transport, and Stop HS2 is very concerned that these failings have also affected the planning of HS2.”