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High Court dismisses environmental judicial review into HS2

The High Court has dismissed a judicial review that claimed the government failed to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) before making safeguarding directions to protect the planned route of HS2.

Mr Justice Lindblom concluded that the Safeguarding Directions were not a ‘plan or programme’ that set the framework for development consent and therefore the Department for Transport was not required to undertake a SEA before making those directions. 

The claim had been brought by HS2 Action Alliance Ltd and London Borough of Hillingdon Council. In July, the claimants had been ‘delighted’ that their complaints, concerning a failure to conduct a SEA for HS2, which were made against the UK government and European Commission, had both been found admissible by the Aarhus Compliance Committee.

However, after considering the case, Mr Justice Lindblom said: “Applying the principles identified by the Supreme Court … I find it impossible to conclude that the safeguarding directions fall within the scope of …. the SEA Directive.”

“The HS2 project itself is not a plan or programme under …the SEA Directive. And neither, in my view, are the safeguarding directions which serve to protect it.”

“I therefore conclude that the safeguarding directions are not a plan or programme which sets the framework for future development consent of projects.”

This decision means that the HS2 programme will continue as planned, with the partners getting HS2 ready for construction in 2017. However, the DfT stated that it is determined to minimise the environmental impacts of the project. For instance, HS2 Ltd has committed to limit noise impacts, to plant four million trees, to link important habitats together and seek to achieve no net loss to biodiversity.

Transport minister Robert Goodwill said: “The High Court has once again dismissed a Judicial Review in respect of HS2. I invite interested groups to work with us through the Parliamentary process on making HS2 the very best it can be, and not to waste money on costly and fruitless court cases.

“The project had a huge vote of support in Parliament, recognising the importance of HS2 for the long term economy of the country. It will provide jobs, skills and free up space on our congested network for more trains and more passengers.”

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