Aarhus Committee finds for HS2AA and Hillingdon in HS2 Environmental complaint

HS2AA and Hillingdon Council are delighted that their complaints concerning a failure to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for HS2, which were made against the UK Government and European Commission, have both been found admissible by the Aarhus Compliance Committee.

The next step is hearing how the UK will justify its position to the Aarhus Committee given its duties under the international treaty known as the Aarhus Convention. The European Commission is involved in these proceedings because the UK’s Supreme Court contend that they are complying with the relevant European Union Directive.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said:

I believe that the UK’s Supreme Court’s decision that a Strategic Environmental Assessment was not required in the HS2 consultation process is inconsistent with laws to protect the environment, leaving the UK in breach of the UN Treaty obligations under the Aarhus Convention.  I am therefore delighted that the Aarhus Compliance Committee will be investigating this matter”.

Hilary Wharf, Director, HS2AA commented

This decision is a crucial step in getting the Government to face up to their environmental responsibilities that they have tried to evade by adopting the Hybrid Bill method of getting planning consent for HS2. We have always said that the UK Government was wrong but the UK courts have favoured the Government.  The Aarhus Compliance Committee, part of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, has now recognised that our case against the Government needs to be heard”.


Notes for Editors:

The London Borough of Hillingdon and HS2 Action Alliance’s 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.

  1. The impact of the Supreme Court decision meant controversial projects can dodge important environmental rules known as the SEA Directive by getting planning permission from Parliament rather than the normal planning process.
  2. The Aarhus Convention is a cornerstone of the legal protections across Europe for our environment. Uniquely in international law, countries which sign up to the Aarhus Convention are subject to the decisions of the Aarhus Compliance Committee, which sits in Geneva.
  3. A decision from the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee is expected to take a further 6 months.  The Committee has the power to find that the Supreme Court’s decision leaves the UK in breach of its UN Treaty obligations under the Aarhus Convention
  4. A link to our complaint to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee by clicking here.  Landmark Chambers, who represented HS2AA and Hillingdon, comment on the decision here.