Anti-High Speed 2 (HS2) campaigners this week vowed to appeal against a High Court decision to allow the £32bn project to proceed.
They said they would continue to fight for a review of the scheme, despite a comprehensive defeat in the High Court last week.
Judge Justice Ouseley threw out nine of the 10 claims against the scheme in a judicial review heard in December last year (NCE 13 December 2012). But he left the door open for an appeal against his ruling that the project did not require a strategic environmental assessment (SEA).
The claims were brought by the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA); Heathrow Hub, which is promoting a high speed rail link to Heathrow Airport; Aylesbury Park Golf Club; and 51m, which represents 15 local authorities along the route.
The judicial review considered a wide range of issues including the choice of route alignment, alternative options and capacity issues at the proposed Euston terminus. It also examined whether the project should comply with the Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations 2004.
“The optioneering to get the best route has not been done in a relevant way”
Mark Bostock, Heathrow Hub
The judge also looked at whether enough consideration was given to the impact of HS2 on other parts of the transport network and whether announcing the route pre-judged the government’s review of aviation capacity in the South East.
But only objections relating to the level of compensation due to be paid to those living on or near the route were upheld.
HS2AA, 51m and Heathrow Hub all vowed to fight on, saying they would target the failure to carry out an SEA.
Ouseley granted leave of appeal on the issue of whether an SEA should be applied to the project.
An SEA is a cumulative impact assessment aimed at ensuring environmental and other sustainable impacts are considered fully in policies, plans and programmes. Requirements are set out in European Union Directive 2001/42/E.
To comply with the directive, UK national and local government are usually required to carry out SEAs in relation to what the directive terms “plans and programmes” for local transport or flood risk management.
Ouseley said that HS2 did not require an SEA because he ruled that project promoter HS2 Ltd’s Decisions & next steps document of January 2012 - which signalled final government approval for the scheme - was not a “plan or programme” that required an SEA.
“That document was not a ‘plan or programme’ within the directive because it set no framework to be applied by or to guide the body which would reach the decision on whether or not development consent would be granted, that is Parliament,” Ouseley told the court.
But his judgement rejected the government’s claim that it had effectively met the requirements of an SEA by carrying out an appraisal of the project’s sustainability credentials.
HS2 Ltd published an “appraisals of sustainability” document last year. It claimed that this assessed the overall environmental impact of the scheme in line with the SEA regulations 2004. The judge said that if it could be argued that an SEA was needed, then the “appraisals of sustainability” document would not be sufficient.
“If I were wrong and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive had applied to the Decisions document, I would have found that the ‘appraisals of sustainability’ had not substantially complied with the directive,” he said.
“This is because of its failure to assess the new network proposed north of Lichfield, and the spurs to Heathrow.”
University of Liverpool geography and planning professor Thomas Fischer agreed the only way to fully assess a large infrastructures project such as high speed rail was through an SEA.
“When you get to large infrastructure projects, there all kinds of induced benefits that can be only assessed through an SEA,” he said.
Cheryl Gillan, MP for Chesham and Amersham, whose constituency is on the route, told NCE that there would be an appeal, and that the “fight would go on”.
“If this project is going to be done, then I think they should do it right,” she said.
The claimants have up to 21 days to lodge an appeal.
Heathrow Hub consultant and former Arup director Mark Bostock said he was concerned that the ruling has meant other options for HS2 have not been fully considered.
“The optioneering to get the best route has not been done in a relevant way,” said Bostock.