Full steam ahead as HS2 campaigners lose most of legal fight

Marion Dakers

CAMPAIGNERS against the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link have lost most of their legal challenges to the project.

The High Court this morning dismissed nine out of ten arguments set out by opponents of the plan in five judicial review claims brought in December.

However, around 70 groups acting as the HS2 Action Alliance successfully argued that the consultation into compensation payments for property owners blighted by the route were unlawful.

Simon Burns, the minister responsible for HS2, said the government will run the consultation again, but that overall the judgment was a “landmark victory” for the £33bn project.

“The judge has categorically given the green light for the government to press ahead without delay in building a high speed railway from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds,” Burns said in a statement.

HS2AA said it will file an appeal against the court’s ruling on the environmental effects of the scheme, which the group argues the government has failed to properly consider.

Construction work is set to begin in 2017, with the route up to Birmingham due to open in 2026 and the full Y-shaped route expected to launch in 2033.

Several councils, residents and businesses along the route have fought the proposals, and argued in court that the scheme has contained irrational, unfair and unlawful actions.

Justice Ouseley rejected most of the arguments, but accepted HS2AA’s claim that the government had not given enough information in 2011 about how a compensation scheme would work, describing the government’s decision as “distinctly odd”.

“Although the overall decision is not irrational, the carefully reasoned and substantial HS2AA consultation response addressing the consultation issues as framed by the secretary of state cannot have been conscientiously considered,” the judge said in summary.

“All in all, the consultation on compensation was so unfair as to be unlawful.”