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Property compensation consultation to be re-run after sole challenge upheld

The High Court has rejected a legal challenge to HS2 in what high speed rail minister Simon Burns described as a “major, landmark victory” for the £34 billion scheme.

Work on the scheme can continue after the High Court rejected nine out of 10 challenges to the scheme, with one challenge upheld that the government’s consultation on compensation proposals was “so unfair as to be unlawful”.

The government has confirmed it will seek to recoup legal costs from claimants after the 15 local authorities challenging the scheme in court lost on all seven grounds of the challenge they attempted.

The transport secretary has decided to re-run a property compensation consultation, after the High Court ruled in favour of a challenge to the consultation with the judge finding that further consideration should have been given to other potential compensation models.

Mr Burns said: “This is a major, landmark victory for HS2 and the future of Britain.

“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.

“HS2 is the most significant infrastructure investment the UK has seen in modern times and a project the country cannot afford to do without. The judgement ensures that nothing now stands in the way of taking our plans to Parliament.

“We will now move forward as planned with the crucial business of getting the scheme ready for construction in 2017 and delivering enormous benefits for the country.”

The High Court ruled that the Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations did not apply to HS2, but HS2 Action Alliance rejected the DfT’s claims that it had in practice complied with the requirements of the SEA Regulations. HS2AA said it intended to appeal this ruling.

The scheme is opposed by 18 local authorities, Heathrow Hub Ltd, Aylesbury Park Golf Club and the HS2 Action Alliance.

HS2 Action Alliance reaction:

Hilary Wharf, director, HS2AA said: “Today’s judgement is a huge victory for the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are blighted by HS2. The government’s shabby attempt to railroad through an inadequate compensation scheme whilst ignoring the views of ordinary people have been judged to be unlawful.

“The government must now go back to the drawing board and rethink its approach to compensation. There are many better compensation alternatives which would help all those up and down the country trapped by HS2.

“A market-based Property Bond scheme reflects private sector best practice and has been supported by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the British Bankers Association and the National Association of Estate Agents. Implementing such a scheme would give confidence to the property market while at the same time shift the remaining cost of property blight away from ordinary people.”

The next stages for the HS2 project are a consultation on the draft environmental statement in the spring and the deposit of a hybrid bill by the end of the year.

The HS2 judicial reviews took place at the Royal Courts of Justice, from 3-17 December last year.

Pinsent Masons transport partner Patrick Twist said it was “great news” that HS2 had cleared the legal hurdle, but warned that appeals were “almost certain”.

“The UK desperately needs infrastructure investment of this kind. The High Court verdict to reject all but the most minor grounds for judicial review of the decisions to proceed with HS2 will be a considerable relief to the secretary of state for transport.

“It is almost certain that there will be an appeal, but the fact that this verdict has gone so comprehensively in favour of the government means that the timetable remains on track and the judgement gives no scope for siren voices to call for a delay and rethinking of the project,” he added.

“Of course, the anti-HS2 alliances are unlikely to give up their legal battle so we should expect a few more hurdles to come, but if the UK is serious about being able to punch above its weight internationally we need to have infrastructure that makes the UK a great place to do business and which links our main commercial centres.” 

Ruling summary:

  • The secretary of state had not acted irrationally on the Euston Underground station, saying the HS1 link via the North London Line “may or may not” create capacity problems, but this is for Parliament to decide. He added that it was “obviously not irrational” to promote the link to Heathrow.
  • The government didn’t have to have carried out a Strategic Environmental Assessment, and the scheme’s sustainability appraisal had not substantially complied with the SEA, had it applied, because it did not assess the new network north of Lichfield and the Heathrow spurs.
  • The judge dismissed the challenge that the government had failed to comply with the Habitats Directive.
  • He also rejected that it would be unlawful for the scheme to proceed via a hybrid bill, adding that whether Parliament’s actions made development consent unlawful should be judged “at the end of the whole process”.
  • He was not persuaded that the government was required to present the environmental impacts of the entire Y network to Parliament, saying any failings “should be judged in the light of the actual Environmental Impact Assessment”.
  • He dismissed the challenge that the secretary of state had acted unlawfully by: undertaking two separate route consultations; taking into account two reports from Atkins and Network Rail on a negative report on the scheme; in not providing passenger loading data; and in amending the route after the consultation process.
  • Heathrow Hub Ltd’s challenge that the secretary of state had fettered their decisions and predetermined the outcome of aviation strategy was dismissed.
  • The challenge that government had failed to properly consider alternatives submitted by Aylesbury Park Golf Club was also dismissed.
  • HS2AA’s challenge that the secretary of state had not provided sufficient information in consultation on how the three options for compensation schemes might be applied, was upheld. The criteria by which options were considered were also not adequately explained. It was ruled that “the carefully reasoned and substantial HS2AA consultation response… cannot have been conscientiously considered.” A hearing on how to remedy that challenge was expected this morning.



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