You will probably be aware that last Friday the Judge in the High Court gave his decision on cases brought against the Department for Transport about High Speed 2. The County Council and all the Buckinghamshire District Councils have been united in opposing this project as it will do immense harm to the county and its residents whilst delivering no benefits to us. More importantly at £34 billion it is very poor value for all hard pressed taxpayers’ money and better alternatives exist. We challenged the lack of consultation on the principle of the scheme, particularly for those people and businesses north of Birmingham whose lives and homes will be blighted for decades but who had no effective say in the consultation. We also challenged on environmental grounds, arguing that a full ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment’ should have been carried out first to understand the impact of the route chosen. Lastly, we strongly believed that the far cheaper and better value alternative that we put forward had not been fairly considered.
The result was that the Judge found the consultation on compensation ‘so unfair as to be unlawful’. This is a major win for those opposing the scheme as it will mean that the Government will have to re-consult and we hope that better compensation will be offered. The Judge did not support our argument on consultation on the scheme itself for the bizarre reason that he accepted the Government’s argument that it had actually made ‘no decisions’ whatsoever on HS2. Many of us felt that we must have been living in a parallel universe for the past three years given all the announcements! He also felt that the challenge on environmental grounds was ‘too early’. He rejected the Government’s claim that they had already done enough environmental appraisals.
Immediately afterwards the Judge gave us permission to Appeal on the Environmental issues and the failure to consider the alternatives. This is good news and reflects the strength of our case.
I know that some people argue that we should not be supporting our residents in this way. However, given that the Government is spending some £750 millions promoting this project that will change the county forever, if we do not stand up for our residents against something like this, who will? I am proud to do so. We are also continuing to work with HS2 to try and get the best mitigation possible should the scheme go ahead.
Martin Tett Leader, Buckinghamshire County Council.