Protesters prepare for legal challenge against £34bn high speed rail link between London and Birmingham.
- First phase of HS2 will see link between London and Birmingham by 2026
- Second phase will include a 225mph train routes to Leeds and Manchester
- Protest groups and local councils challenge the project in High Court from Monday next week
By Ray Massey
Protest groups and 15 councils will seek to stop the Government’s controversial £34billion high speed HS2 rail project dead in its tracks when they challenge the ‘fundamentally flawed’ project in the High Court from Monday.
Ahead of the legal battle they warned ministers: ’You may ignore our protests but you can’t ignore the courts.’
Teams of barristers led by QCs will present five separate legal challenges against the Department for Transport on environmental and financial grounds over a nine day period to prevent the ‘damning blight’ of homes and countryside close to the line.
Money wasted: Protesters say the new HS2 project has been 'an abysmal business case and represents extremely poor value for hard pressed taxpayers' money'
The judicial reviews are being launched by the umbrella group 51M representing 15 councils along the route, two challenges by the HS2 Action Alliance, as well as Heathrow Hub Ltd and Aylesbury Park Golf Club.
The first phase of the scheme for the 225mph trains involves a 143 mile route from London to Birmingham by 2026, followed by a ‘Y’ shaped split to Leeds and Manchester in the North by 2033.
Objections to be put to the High Court include Government failure to provide accurate information, failure to comply to environmental statute, failure to assess the impact on communities, failure to adequately assess alternatives, failure to consider the impact of HS2 on other parts of the transport infrastructure, and that the decision on compensation failed to meet Government promises and relied on ‘undisclosed information’.
Proceedings start on Monday December 3 and is expected to conclude Tuesday December 11 with the councils first to fire their legal broadside .
Transport mess: High Speed HS2 protest poster showing former Transport Secretary Justine Greening and current one Patrick McLoughlin portrayed as Laurel and Hardy
Councillor Martin Tett, Chairman of the 51m alliance and leader of Buckinghamshire County Council said: ‘We are doing this with immense reluctance; however we feel that we have been left with no alternative. ‘
He said the project has ‘an abysmal business case and represents extremely poor value for hard pressed taxpayers' money’.
‘Far better alternatives exist to build the infrastructure the country desperately needs more quickly and at far lower cost. We cannot let the Department for Transport with its atrocious record on managing key investment decisions not answer for why these have been ignored.’
Councillor Sarah Hayward, Leader of Camden Council, said: ‘The judicial review enables us to highlight the impact of this fundamentally flawed scheme, through the legal system.
‘This scheme will bring a damning blight to Camden that could last for decades, and the council will fight for every home and business, brick by brick.’
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said: ‘We have been waiting for our day in court for a long while and it is a shame it has had to come to this, but the Government have failed to listen to any point we have made so far.’
Protested project: Former Transport Secretary Justine Greening speaks to the media on the Southeastern High Speed platform at St Pancras Station in London as the HS2 high-speed rail project was given the green light
Penny Gaines, who chaise the Stop HS2 campaign said: 'The Department for Transport have failed in their duty to adequately assess the environmental impact of HS2.‘
Hilary Wharf , Director, HS2 Action Alliance said: ‘The Government is trying to force through HS2 without following proper process. Our cases concern environmental issues and the consultation on compensation.’
‘We are confident in our arguments. While Government has consistently ignored the compelling case against HS2, they can’t ignore the courts.'
She added: ‘We have raised the money for the legal actions from many hundreds of individual donations from ordinary people who feel angered and frustrated by the Government's flawed decision to proceed.
The 15 local authorities party to the 51M group’s 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.
Affected resident Jaqi Curruthers, from South Heath in Buckinghamshire said: ’We’ve lived here for 11 years and have three children in local schools.
'My partner has built a business in Essex over the last five years and we were hoping to move to be closer to his work.
'But as our house is 400 metres from the proposed line we are not entitled to any compensation and we are left with a big mortgage on a house that is effectively worthless.’
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ’HS2 will bring cities closer together, drive regeneration, tackle overcrowding and stimulate economic growth.
‘While it would not be appropriate to comment on the specific claims, the Government is confident that the decisions on HS2 have been taken lawfully and fairly and it is vigorously defending these legal challenges.’
The Prime Minister this week gave a ‘personal undertaking’ to review compensation schemes for properties affected by the planned high speed 2 rail link after being challenged by his former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan.
Ms Gillan, whose Chesham and Amersham seat will be home to part of the route, urged a generous package for those who live and work nearby.
Mr Cameron said: ‘I absolutely give that undertaking that I will look carefully at the scheme. We are consulting, as you know, at the moment.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2241158/Protesters-prepare-legal-challenge-34bn-high-speed-rail-link-London-Birmingham.html#ixzz2Dp2nGbjM
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