Apr 5 2012 By James Cracknell
NOT one, not two, but three legal challenges have been launched this week against the government's decision to press ahead with HS2.
HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) announced it had submitted two of its own judicial review cases against the Department for Transport (DfT), following 51m Group's earlier promise this week to start court proceedings.
While the group of 15 local authorities, including Hillingdon Council, is lumping all of its critiques of HS2 into one legal bid, HS2AA decided to separate them into two distinct challenges.
Whichever is the best strategy, only time will tell. But both moves were made this week as the three-month deadline approached for challenging Transport Secretary Justine Greening's January 10 decision to build a high-speed railway through Hillingdon, on its way from London to Birmingham.
The government claims the project would cost £32.7billion, but this figure has been disputed by campaigners who claim it could reach as high as £50bn
Council leader Ray Puddifoot said he ‘regretted’ resorting to the use of legal action against a coalition made up primarily of ministers from the same political party as his own.
The Conservative Party councillor said: “The proposed HS2 scheme is a monumental folly and an example of how to get it wrong in practically every aspect from the enormous cost to the transport needs of the country, to the environmental damage and completely ignoring the views expressed by the public in the consultation process.
“However, even the government is not above the law, it is always a matter of regret when, as local politicians, we have to resort to using the law to protect the people and the environment from such economically disastrous vanity projects.”
Hillingdon Council allocated £150,000 last year to fighting HS2, and included the same figure again in its budget for 2012-13.
A judicial review examines the lawfulness of how a decision by a public body is made, rather than whether it was right or wrong. It is a similar legal process to the one which was successful in delaying – and eventually helping to overturn – the previous government’s plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
The legal challenges are expected to cost several hundred thousand pounds each, however, an award to cover those costs may be made by the court if they are successful.
The review led by 51m will centre on the DfT’s ‘inadequate consultation’, failure to consider impact on the London Underground, lack of environmental consideration and the hybrid bill process that is ‘incompatible with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive’.
The two reviews led by HS2AA focus first on a lack of information over compensation measures, and second on the lack of an environmental impact study prior to the DfT decision.
However, Gillian Outram, group head of IBB Solicitors in Uxbridge, warned that the reviews would be seen as wasteful.
She said: “The judicial review is likely to be a waste of money because it will merely look at the process of the decision rather than the intrinsic merits of HS2.”