Opposition’s legal challenge to High Speed 2 clears first hurdle - 26 July 2012
26 July 2012: The Court today set the timetable on the case against High Speed 2 (HS2). The judge agreed that the five cases against HS2 will all be heard and sets the date for the hearings; he caps the opposition’s costs and he opens the door to further amendments to the claims.
The Government’s solicitors and the five parties challenging the lawfulness of Justine Greening's January 2012 announcement to proceed with the controversial high speed rail network (HS2) had their first meeting in court today. His Honour Mr Justice Ouseley presided over a "Case Management Conference" which confirmed how the five challenges to HS2 will be heard by the court. It was agreed that
- The claims will all be heard: The five different claims brought in respect of the Secretary of State's decision to proceed with HS2 will be heard in the High Court starting on 3 December 2012. It is anticipated that the court will sit for eight days to hear the cases.
- The cases will be heard together but organised separately: There will be an agreed running order and the Court will give its decision on each case after all five have been heard.
- Justine Greening required to explain consultation errors: Three of the four parties bringing cases (HS2AA, 51M, and Heathrow Hub) made clear to the court during today’s hearing that the news last week that their 2011 consultation responses had been omitted could now affect their grounds for challenge. The Secretary of State has been required to provide a full explanation for what happened. The judge agreed their cases could then be amended if required.
- Further hearing may be scheduled. It was agreed that there could be a further hearing in October dealing with the Government’s continuing refusal to release official data on passengers numbers on the West Coast Main Line.
- HS2AA’s costs will be capped: It was confirmed that HS2AA were successful in their application to have their costs capped, at £25,000 for each of their two cases.
Hilary Wharf, Director HS2AA said "We are very pleased with today’s decision. Not only does the Judge agree our cases should be, and will be heard, but the Secretary of State has been forced to account for her actions in seemingly ignoring many consultation responses.
The fact that three of the four claimants in this case have had their consultation responses mishandled is unbelievable. But it does explain why the Government seemed not to be listening, - because they weren’t. We were pleased that the judge will allow us to amend our case to reflect these developments.
The Government should stop hiding behind its lawyers and release the capacity data which is so fundamental to their case for HS2.
The hearing in December 2012 will provide communities from Euston to Staffordshire with the opportunity so many having been waiting so long for - to show the court why we think the decision to proceed with HS2 was unlawful.
I would like to thank our two legal teams who have worked so hard to get us to this point and the many thousands of supporters who contributed to the legal fund, without which HS2AA could not have afforded justice.”
Note to Editors
1. HS2 Action Alliance is a national organisation making the powerful case against HS2. It is a not for profit organisation working with over 70 local groups, who all believe HS2 does not represent an effective answer to the UK’s transport, economic or environmental needs.
2. HS2AA are taking 2 judicial review cases against Government. The first majors on failure to follow the SEA regulations, and the second on the lack of information relating to the compensation consultation.
3. The grounds for the environmental legal challenge are the failure of the Department for Transport to comply with the requirements of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Regulations 2004 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. The SEA Regulations require a full strategic environmental assessment of any important infrastructure project and an assessment of all alternatives to be completed before any proposals are presented for public consultation. The Government failed to do this with HS2. Our previous press release on this covers it in more detail.
4. The basis of the compensation Judicial Review centres on the fact that inadequate information was provided in the consultation, preventing the public from being able to give a meaningful response. The decision was without proper justification, ignored their own criteria and relied on new undisclosed material. Further, the decision did not meet the expectations that had been created by Government, who had promised a fair deal for those suffering losses due to a project alleged to be in the public interest. If all the information had been provided, then the public could have responded to the questions and a different decision should have been reached.
5. On 20 July 2012 HS2AA along with 412 others (including 3 taking judicial reviews) learnt from HS2 Ltd that their detailed response to the 2011 consultation got lost due to ‘processing errors’. Despite this HS2 Ltd say none of the omitted responses introduced any new matters hence the consultation summary and HS2 decision still stand.