The Court of Appeal yesterday (July 24) rejected arguments from campaigners fighting the introduction of the £50bn HS2 high-speed rail project, leaving ministers preparing to introduce legislation later this year to ensure it goes ahead.
However, opponents of the project, who include local councils and residents’ associations, have been given leave to take their arguments to the Supreme Court and are optimistic that they can either stop the project or at least delay it for years.
Despite being defeated on all seven of their grounds of challenge, they said that the fact that the three judges were split on the issue of whether a full strategic environmental assessment should have been carried out to assess the impact of the scheme and alternatives had given them hope.
Two of the judges, Lord Dyson, the Master of the Rolls, and Lord Justice Richards supported the Department of Transport’s argument that the assessment under a European Directive was not required, but the third, Lord Justice Sullivan, disagreed.
The Department for Transport said that the Government would be seeking to reclaim its legal costs for defending its case against the unsuccessful groups, and Simon Burns, the transport minister overseeing the project, said that Parliament is the right place to debate the merits of HS2, not the law courts.
Furthermore, he urged opponents of the project not to waste any more taxpayers’ money on expensive litigation and instead work with the Government on making HS2 the very best it can be.
Meanwhile, speaking after the decision was announced, HS2 Ltd’s Chief Executive, Alison Munro, said that the work can now continue to deliver a high-speed rail network that will act as an engine for growth, address the capacity challenge on the railways and connect up eight out of 10 of the UK’s biggest cities.
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London
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