HS2 rail scheme protest group warns of legal action
Protest groups against the HS2 rail project have sent the government a formal letter warning they will take legal action unless it is stopped. The HS2 Action Alliance said in the letter to Transport Secretary Justine Greening that it would consider seeking a judicial review. The group said it was concerned about the project’s environmental impact and accused the government of failing to comply with several legal requirements. They say the DfT failed to comply with “the legally binding requirements of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Regulations 2004 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.” An alliance of 18 local authorities working together under the collective name 51m, have also sent a formal notice to Ms Greening asking her to stop the project or face a potential judicial review.
Protest groups against the HS2 rail project have sent the government a formal letter warning they will take legal action unless it is stopped.
The HS2 Action Alliance said in the letter to Transport Secretary Justine Greening that it would consider seeking a judicial review.
The group said it was concerned about the project’s environmental impact.
The £33bn high speed rail line crossing from London and Birmingham and beyond was given the go-ahead last month.
The alliance – a not-for-profit limited company – sent the letter, which accused the government of failing to comply with several legal requirements, on Monday.
The SEA regulations included the need for “full strategic environment assessment” and “an assessment of all alternatives to be completed” before the proposals were put forward for public consultation, it claimed.
The challenge is supported by more than 70 local groups and residents’ associations, four wildlife trusts and other countryside organisations.
In a statement released on its website, the alliance said it had also sent a letter outlining its concerns regarding the scheme to the European Commission.
Its director, Thomas Crane, said the scheme was an “environmental disaster” and the government had put forward a “shaky business case” for it.
He said: “The Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd have ridden roughshod over public opinion and many expert voices to ignore all viable alternatives in their desperation to promote HS2.
“We are still hopeful that Justine Greening will see sense and halt a project which offers such limited benefit for so much environmental damage.
In January, the Stop HS2 protest group said it had been planning to seek a judicial review and lodge the application within a matter of months. It said it was seeking evidence that the government’s decision was flawed.
Mr Crane clarified to the BBC that as the cost of mounting such a challenge was quite expensive, his organisation was issuing the formal notice and was supported by Stop HS2.
An alliance of 18 local authorities working together under the collective name 51m, have also sent a formal notice to Ms Greening asking her to stop the project or face a potential judicial review.
But a Department for Transport spokesman said the project would create jobs and prosperity across the country.
He added: “The line of route between London and the West Midlands has been continually improved to mitigate the impact on those living near it and the environment.
“We believe we have struck the right balance between the reasonable concerns of people living on or near the line – who will be offered a package of compensation measures – the environment and the need to keep Britain moving.”
Chris Howe, from pro-HS2 group YestoHS2, said the alternative plans suggested by activists against the scheme would see a cut in local and regional services and fail to provide the capacity needed to cope with predicted future demand.
He said he was disappointed that councils were also considering action and might “spend what could be millions of pounds worth of council taxpayers’ cash on fighting a proposal which is of national importance”.
Phase one of HS2, between London and Birmingham, is expected to be running by 2026, with an extension to northern England later.
25 January 2012 (BBC)
High-speed rail: Stop HS2 group seeks judicial review
Campaigners against the £33bn high-speed rail project (HS2) are to seek a judicial review of the government’s decision to approve the scheme.
The first phase of HS2, between London and Birmingham, is scheduled to be running by 2026 and be extended later to northern England.
The government said last month it would create jobs and growth.
But critics have disputed projected benefits of up to £47bn and say the route will also damage the environment.
Stop HS2 said it was seeking evidence that the decision was flawed.
The line will first connect London to Birmingham, passing through rural parts of Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire.
It will then go on to Manchester and Leeds and include stops in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.
Joe Rukin, from Stop HS2, said it had until April to lodge the challenge and estimated costs would be about £100,000.
The group represented more than 70 other smaller action groups based in areas stretching from north of Euston up to south Staffordshire, Mr Rukin said.
Various organisations, including councils, environmental groups and action groups, would be involved in challenging the decision, he added.
“There will definitely be a judicial review, it just depends who leads it,” he said.
“The intention is to make the legal challenge as co-ordinated as possible.
“We have a few months to lodge it and we estimate the cost will be around £100,000.
“Of course, it [the review] will take as long as it takes and cost as much at it will cost.”
He said they were also now speaking to other groups and councils further north and wanted any evidence from all groups and residents that they felt demonstrated the decision was flawed.
Lucy James, a spokesperson for the Campaign for High Speed Rail, described the potential judicial review as a “colossal waste of time and money”.
She said: “If local councils along the route foot some of the bill, then in some instances this money could be coming directly from the taxpayer.
“The Department for Transport received and considered nearly 60,000 submissions during the course of their public consultation, and as a result they implemented changes to their original plans which are clearly visible in the alterations they made to the final route.
“Instead of a long drawn-out process through the courts, people from both sides should be working together to ensure that we build the best high-speed railway possible.”
‘Keep Britain moving’
Confirming the rail route would go ahead last month, Transport Secretary Justine Greening described the line as “the most significant transport infrastructure project since the building of the motorways”.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) said the new network would provide passengers with more seats and connections as well as jobs and prosperity “for the entire country”.
“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly or without great consideration of the impact on those who are affected by the route from London to Birmingham,” the DfT said in a statement.
It said the route struck “the right balance between the reasonable concerns of people living on or near the line, who will be offered a generous compensation package, and the need to keep Britain moving”.