The Judgment expected this morning in the UK Supreme Court on the HS2 Action Alliance has rejected the HS2 Action Alliance appeal. The points of appeal are listed below. The administrative law procedure for judicial review permits parties in this significant case to challenge the reasonableness of the Government’s decision to go ahead with its plans for a high speed rail network; the challenge in this case appearing to be failure to consult during the environmental assessment process. A serious question was as to whether sufficient time has been allowed to assess environmental issues, including assessment by Members of Parliament; and thus parliamentary procedure would fail to meet the requirements of the environmental directive. This point of appeal also appears to have been rejected.
The Secretary of State issued a Command paper titled ‘High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future—Decisions and Next Steps’ (DNS) setting out the government’s strategy for a new national high speed rail network called High Speed Two (HS2) from London to Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. The appellants contend that the Decisions and Next Steps (the ‘DNS’) paper is a ‘plan or program’ that is ‘required by administrative provisions’ and ‘sets the framework for development consent’ of HS2 and falls within articles 2 and 3 of Directive 2001/42/EC the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (the SEAD) as transposed by the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004. Justice Ouseley, found at first instance, that the consultation process in respect of the compensation decision was so unfair as to be unlawful. On all other grounds, however, he dismissed the claims, as did the Court of Appeal.
Main points of appeal:
1. Whether plans that may influence the Parliamentary consent process should be effectively excluded from the requirements of strategic environmental assessment by an unduly restrictive interpretation or application of the Strategic Envinronmental Assessment Directive (the SEAD); and contrary to EU environmental law.
2. Whether on the facts the Secretary of State’s ‘Decisions and Next Steps’ (DNS) paper would have a sufficient influence on Parliament to engage the SEAD (the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive) and whether its very potential to influence Parliament is a compelling factor since, by the time the Bill process is underway, it will too late to challenge the decision in the DNS and provide proof of actual influence;
The writer has not followed the appeal closely, however the Case summary and Judgment issued this morning given its topicality and public importancea are linked below.