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Council Takes Fight Against HS2 to the High Court

November 30th, 2012

How South Northants’ beautiful countryside might look after HS2?South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) will stand shoulder to shoulder with the 14 other councils opposing the HS2 high speed rail link in the High Court next week (December 3). The move follows the decision of the 51m group to press ahead with a judicial review of the Government’s decision to move forward with the £34 billion project.

SNC Councillor Rupert Fordham, portfolio holder for economic development and regeneration said: 

“Those residents and businesses in South Northamptonshire that will be affected by the planned route have put their faith in this authority to help them in their fight against it.

“The environmental and economic impacts have not been properly considered. The project is expensive, wasteful and environmentally destructive. It would therefore be remiss for us to sit back and allow a project that will have a detrimental impact on the quality of so many people’s lives to go unchallenged.

“We recognise the need for investment in the country’s rail network but spending £34bn on HS2 is not the way to do it.” 

South Northamptonshire Council will fight the proposals alongside other members of the 51m alliance, a group of local authorities that have joined together in a national campaign to challenge the HS2 rail project. 

It is anticipated that the case will take two days to be heard.

Background
51m is a group of 18 local authorities that have joined together in a national campaign to challenge the HS2 rail project. The group is known as “51m” because that represents how much HS2 will cost each and every Parliamentary Constituency:£51 million. The group wants to emphasise the impact the proposed scheme will have on every taxpayer in the country for years to come. Fifteen of the 18 local authorities in 51m are party to the judicial review on HS2. Click here for more information on the group. 

The 15 local authorities who are party to the judicial review are: 

  • Buckinghamshire County Council
  • London Borough of Hillingdon
  • London Borough of Camden
  • Aylesbury Vale District Council
  • Cherwell District Council, Oxfordshire
  • Chiltern District Council
  • Lichfield District Council, Staffordshire
  • North Warwickshire Borough Council
  • South Bucks District Council
  • South Northamptonshire Council
  • Stratford-on-Avon District Council, Warwickshire
  • Three Rivers District Council, Hertfordshire
  • Warwick District Council
  • Warwickshire County Council
  • Wycombe District Council


Why these local authorities are challenging the decision to give HS2 the green light 
1. The consultation was unfair and the environmental assessment was inadequate: 

  • The Government has decided to proceed with a high speed line without even consulting with those on the Y (North of Birmingham) about the route.
  • It failed properly to consult on 51M’s alternative (the optimised alternative) which would have met capacity needs without environmental damage, and would have been far better value for money.
  • The government made changes to the route it had first consulted on without further consultation.
  • There has been no Strategic Environmental Assessment and no proper assessment of the effect on protected species and wildlife. 
  • There has been no proper assessment of the effect on communities that would be destroyed by the construction, particularly the community in Camden around Euston.
  • The procedure that the Government has chosen for progressing HS2 – a “Hybrid Bill” – will not allow for proper environmental consultation and decision making.

2. The impact of building and operating the HS2 rail link on the Underground capacity at Euston has not been fully considered. The Government does not know how the underground system will cope and without knowing this it is irrational to go ahead.

What the local authorities hope to achieve with the review
The judicial review is about the alleged failure of the government to follow the proper legal process in reaching its decision to go ahead with the project. The members of 51m hope the government will at least go back and correct the failures in the process – for example, by re-consulting. 
 
It is also hoped this will cause the government to question the entire validity of the scheme and agree with 51m that there are better ways to spend £34 billion to boost growth and jobs now. 

The people making the case 
The 51m group has a legal team of two barristers (Nathalie Lieven QC and Kassie Smith) instructed by Harrison Grant on behalf of the 15 local authorities in court. Witness statements have also been made by Cllr Martin Tett (Leader of Bucks County Council), Cllr Ray Puddifoot (Leader of LB Hillingdon), Cllr Sarah Hayward (Leader of LB Camden), Michael May (independent transport planning consultant) and Chris Stokes (independent strategic rail consultant). Details of these statements will be available after they have been heard in court.

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