Legal Challenge

Buckinghamshire Council joined the 51m legal challenge of the government’s decision to proceed with High Speed Two.

51m challenged the decision to give HS2 the green light on the basis of:

  • the government has decided to proceed with a high speed line without even consulting with those on the "Y section" (network linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, with a spur to Heathrow) about the route
  • they failed properly to consult on 51M’s alternative (the optimised alternative) which would meet capacity needs without environmental damage, and be far better value for money.
  • and they made changes to the route they first consulted on without further consultation.
  • there has been no Strategic Environmental Assessment – and no proper assessment of the affect on protected species and wildlife.
  • there has been no proper assessment of the affect on communities which would be destroyed by the construction, particularly the community in Camden around Euston.
  • the procedure that the Government has chosen for progressing HS2, a “Hybrid Bill”, will not allow for proper environmental consultation and decision making.
  • the impact of building and operating the HS2 rail link on the Underground capacity at Euston has not been fully considered. The Government does not know how the underground system will cope and without knowing this it is irrational to go ahead.

What was the outcome?

On Friday 15 March 2013, the High Court delivered its long-awaited judgment on the five judicial review challenges to the £33 billion HS2 project that were heard during a hearing in December 2012.

The claims were brought by four protest groups, including members of the 51m alliance, campaign group HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), which represents more than 70 affiliated groups and residents' associations, and Aylesbury Park Golf Club.

The challenge by the HS2 Action Alliance to the lawfulness of the consultation on the discretionary compensation scheme was the only successful claim. The other nine challenges identified in the five separate cases were not upheld. However, Mr Justice Ouseley did give permission for the local authorities to appeal on two grounds.

Buckinghamshire Council, along with other councils involved in the judicial review, decided to appeal on a number of the grounds heard in December 2012. On 24 July 2013, judges dismissed all seven grounds of the challenge but said a final appeal could be made to the Supreme Court.

HS2AA has recently been at the Supreme Court challenging the government’s decision to proceed with HS2 without undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

HS2AA state that the very fact they have been given the right to appeal to the Supreme Court demonstrates the vital importance of the case, and they believe that had an SEA been undertaken, HS2 would never have been adopted back in 2010.

However, those representing HS2 argued that the EIA regulations cover all relevant requirements, meaning there was no need for an SEA to be carried out. Furthermore, they confirmed that undertaking a SEA would delay the project by 6-12 months, and although a SEA would consider alternative routes, the ‘Optimised Alternatives’, proposed by 51M, would not necessarily be considered.

Seven out of the nine members of the Supreme Court were sitting for the appeal, and a decision is expected in the new year.