When you feel that the Government has not acted properly in its dealings with the citizens of this Country it is a big, and expensive, step to seek a remedy in the High Court. Despite this, the Cubbington Action Group against HS2 fully supported two applications by the HS2 Action Alliance for a Judicial Review on aspects of the Government’s handling of the HS2 project, and subscribed to the fund to finance legal proceedings. The first step in this legal process has secured two important outcomes for the campaign against HS2, and we warmly congratulate HS2AA for this achievement.
In an embarrassing ruling for the Government, the Court found that the consultation and decision-making process that it had run on the compensation proposals for those affected by HS2 was “so unfair as to be unlawful”. We are pleased that the Government has accepted the Court’s ruling, and will be re-running the compensation consultation. We trust that the Government will do this in a conscientious way, bearing in mind the Judge’s comment that its original choice of a scheme that received only 21 responses (out of 36,036) in support was “bizarre”, and will improve the compensation package as a result.
Whilst the Court did not rule in HS2AA’s favour on the important environmental aspects of its application, the case has great significance for the protection of our environment. Whilst the Court found that the Government had not complied with EU environmental law, it ruled that it did not have to as a result of the intention to place a hybrid bill before Parliament. On the face of it, this has revealed a significant loophole in the law that is designed to protect our environment by ensuring that developments, and alternatives, are properly scrutinised for environmental impact at an early stage. It is clear that this important revelation requires further scrutiny by higher courts, including possibly those of the EU, and HS2AA has been granted leave to appeal to ensure that this scrutiny can be applied.
Peter Delow, Chairman of the Cubbington Action Group against HS2, commented:
“Rather than bragging that the High Court has given the ‘green light’ to HS2, the Transport Minister should be humbly apologising to all those affected by the HS2 proposals for his Government running an unlawful consultation on compensation and subjecting us, as a consequence, to the trouble of having to respond to a rerun. We have all been treated despicably by the Government and I hope that it will see this Court ruling as a signal that it must clean up its act.”
NB. The comments made by Transport Minister, the Rt Hon Simon Burns MP, in response to the judgement of the High Court may be found in a press release issued by the Department for Transport on 15th March 2013, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/high-court-rejects-legal-challenges-to-hs2-in-landmark-victory-for-the-government.