Judicial review against proposed HS2 link is launched

HS2 walk starting from Stoke Mandeville
HS2 walk starting from Stoke Mandeville
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Fifteen councils opposing HS2 have launched a judicial review of the Government’s decision to press ahead with the £33billion project.

51m, an alliance of councils against the controversial high speed link which includes among its members Cherwell District, Oxon County, Aylesbury Vale District, Bucks County and South Northants Council has stepped up its campaign.

Martin Tett, chairman of 51m, and Leader of Bucks County Council said: “We are doing this with great reluctance but feel the Government has left us with no alternative.

“They effectively excluded over half those affected by the proposal from participating in the consultation and in practice ignored the views of over 50,000 people and businesses who did respond.

“Worse still it is clear that there is a much cheaper and more efficient alternative way to meet growth in demand. This would benefit far more towns and cities in the Midlands and north of England and avoid knocking down hundreds of houses outside Euston Station.

“We have clear legal advice there is a substantial case to be made against the Government for the cavalier way they took this decision.

“We have obviously thought long and hard about whether to launch a judicial review, or not. Legal proceedings are always expensive. But in this case we believe it is in the public interest for Bucks County Council and councils within 51m to mount this challenge. By working together we will share the costs and minimise the impact on individual council budgets.

“Virtually all objective analysts have condemned this project. The business case is fundamentally flawed and represents appallingly poor value for money to the hard pressed British taxpayer. It doesn’t deliver the extra capacity where and when it is needed on the main commuter routes and it fails to help regenerate manufacturing industry in this country.”

The grounds for the legal challenge are:

Inadequate consultation - There has been a failure to consult with people north of Birmingham who therefore do not know if they will be impacted by the HS2 route; there has been a failure to consult on the Optimised Alternative which was offered to the Government by 51m; there has been a failure to consult on the changes to the route which were announced for the first time on January 10, 2012. For many people, the announcement in January was the first time they became aware that they would be affected.

The impact of building and operating the HS2 rail link on the Underground capacity at Euston has not been fully considered.

The decision to proceed with the HS2 rail link was made with inadequate environmental information. The Strategic Environment Assessment which the Government is required to carry out before reaching a decision has not been undertaken. The decision is also in breach of the Habitats Directive which is one of the EU’s two directives in relation to wildlife and nature conservation, and aims to protect some 220 habitats and approximately 1,000 species listed in the directive’s Annexes.

The Hybrid Bill process is not compatible with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive which states that the public should be given the opportunity to participate in the environmental decision-making process before a decision on development is made. This has not happened.