London borough and campaigners lose latest High Court case on HS2

Anti-HS2 activists and the London Borough of Hillingdon have lost a joint court challenge to the high-speed train line’s construction.

The judgment has led Hillingdon’s leader to accuse the courts of an irresponsible approach to cases connected with the line, and of “turning a blind eye” to Government infractions of environmental regulations.

HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) and the council had argued in a judicial review that safeguarding directions issued by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to protect land for the line’s construction were unlawful, as they were issued without a strategic environmental assessment.

Mr Justice Lindholm accepted that the safeguarding directions were “required by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions” within the meaning of article 2 of the SEA Directive but said they did not constitute a “plan or programme” which “set the framework for future development consent of projects…for the purposes of article 3(2) of the Directive”.

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Both Hillingdon and HS2AA will seek permission to appeal and said they would “be considering what other options are available to them to remedy the injustice caused by this decision”.

Hillingdon’s leader Ray Puddifoot said: ”This decision clearly demonstrates that the courts are turning a blind eye to the Government’s approach in implementing the HS2 project.

“This is very irresponsible and is allowing the Government to ride rough shod over longstanding laws which protect the environment. The council will look at every possible route open to it to have this flawed decision overturned.”

HS2AA said the judgement contained “some surprising conclusions, some of which did not appear to have been discussed in court or previous written submissions”.

It said the court had “allowed the Government to treat itself as a special case, regardless of the environmental harm which will be caused by its failure to observe its legal obligations”.

The outcome showed there was “very obvious judicial reluctance to interfere in any way with the HS2 scheme in spite of the Government’s cavalier approach in ignoring established domestic and European legislation, which serves to protect the environment,” the group said.

HS2 is planned to run from London to Birmingham, with later sections connecting to Manchester and Leeds.

Mark Smulian