Court declines to act on Government’s environmental failings

Hillingdon Council and HS2AA are bitterly disappointed that the High Court has dismissed their judicial review claim. The Safeguarding Directions issued by the Government have not been subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment, as required by European Law, and the judicial system  which is supposed to enforce this law in a consistent manner has, once again, 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 of this case has served to highlight the 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. It is particularly disappointing that the High Court’s reasoning for dismissing the claim is partly based on issues which were not even argued before it by the respective parties’ barristers which suggests that every possible way of finding in favour of the Government was carefully considered.

Both the Council and HS2AA will be seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal and they will also be considering what other options are available to them to remedy the injustice caused by this decision.

Councillor Ray Puddifoot, Leader of the Council 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.”

Hilary Wharf, Director of HS2AA said, “ As far as HS2 is concerned this decision demonstrates there is no justice to be found in the UK courts on environmental matters.  Fortunately the UK is part of an international treaty that cannot be so readily disregarded. The Aarhus Compliance Committee agreed last month that the Government has a case to answer, which they will hear.”

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Notes to Editors

1.     The London Borough of Hillingdon is facing massive disruption over many years should the current plans for HS2 proceed, including the placement of a new landfill directly next to thousands of homes which would be one of Europe’s largest. The recent Environmental Statement for HS2 detailed a significant number of adverse environmental impacts in the borough including loss of important amenities such as the Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre, numerous wildlife sites, disruption to traffic and local businesses over many years.

2.     HS2 Action Alliance is a national non-profit organisation which opposes the current HS2 proposals. It is backed by thousands of people across the country together with over 100 affiliated local action groups and residents associations.

3.     Safeguarding directions are instructions issued by the Secretary of State for Transport that require local authorities impacted by Phase 1 of HS2 to refer planning applications which might interfere with the construction of HS2 to HS2 Ltd for a decision.

4.     The Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations are an important element of the planning process and require a full assessment of the likely impacts of any decision which may impact the environment.

5 Mr Justice Lindblom’s judgment is here

6.       The London Borough of Hillingdon and HS2 Action Alliance’s also lodged a complaint against the UK Government for non-compliance with Article 7 of the Aarhus Convention, with the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee in Geneva. The complaint contends January’s Supreme Court decision, which placed a restrictive interpretation on the Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) Directive, was incorrect, and that its refusal to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice is in breach of the UK’s obligations under the EU Treaty. Complaints were brought against both the UK Government and European Commission.

7.      In July 2014 the Aarhus Compliance Committee decided that both complaints concerning a failure to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for HS2, were admissible and should be heard.

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