Press release – Leigh Day and Chris Packham

High Court dismisses application for HS2 judicial review

The High Court has today dismissed an application for permission for judicial review of the Prime Minister’s decision to proceed with the HS2 railway project, and a related interim injunction to halt enabling and clearanceworks relating to HS2.

Mr Packham, represented by law firm Leigh Day, was seeking the injunction to stop the irreversible destruction of ancient woodlands pending the outcome of the judicial review.  The irreplaceable woodlands provide habitats for many species. HS2 Ltd and its contractors have scheduled works to cut down ancient trees starting from 2.30pm today (3 April 2020).

The injunction application was supported by witness statements from the RSPB and the Woodlands Trust, which gave evidence explaining the significance of the irreversible destruction of ancient woodlands and the potential for unlawful damage and/or destruction of birds’ nests as well as disturbance.

The High Court sitting as Divisional Court consisting of Lord Justice Coulson and Mr Justice Holgate dismissed the applications. The Court will provide its reasons on Monday 6 April 2020.

Mr Packham had argued that the decision to allow HS2 to proceed is unlawful because it was made on the basis of the findings and recommendations of the Oakervee Review. Mr Packham believes that the review deviated from its own terms of reference and was not rigorous in its consideration of environmental matters, including its impact on climate.

Mr Packham said:

The High Court’s decision today is hugely disappointing. Not just for me – but for the future of the natural world. I had so hoped that we could go into this weekend safe in the knowledge that our precious ancient trees and all the life they support would still be there on Monday. But as a result of this decision some of the most beautiful organisms we have living in the UK will be gone forever as HS2 Ltd moves in with its chainsaws to hack into our ancient trees. As the ecological and climate crisis deepens, our future depends on what we do today. Together we will battle on. This might be David against Goliath but I am not giving up after just one slingshot. We are considering an appeal. That decision will be made on Monday when the Judges publish their reasons.

Mr Packham is represented by Tom Short and Carol Day at law firm Leigh Day.

Tom Short, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said:

Our client is grateful for the enormous support his case has received from members of the public and from environmental experts who provided witness evidence including the RSPB and the Woodlands Trust. Like many of them, Mr Packham believes it is vital to ensure that the untold environmental destruction the HS2 project will bring is properly scrutinised before any irreversible impacts occur. He argues that the Oakervee Review is flawed, which in turn formed the basis of the Prime Minister’s decision to proceed, and failed to provide that scrutiny. Our client will await the reasoning of the court on Monday (6 April) before deciding what steps he may take.


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13 Replies to “Press release – Leigh Day and Chris Packham”

  1. I saw pictures of felling in one of the woods and from the standard of work ( dire) it certainly doesn't look like a reputable forestry or arboriculture business is invplved. But then that rather reflects the disastrous situation we have got into of engineering projects blasting ahead with minimal concern for anything other than their own narrow objectives.

    How do I know ? You look at the felling cut - and the height of the stump. No respectable chainsawyer would leave stumps as in the pictures I've seen.

    1. I suspect the stumps have been left high to make it easier to pull them out with a digger ☹️

  2. Not only can the woods and wildlife ill afford this disaster, after all the monies having to be spent on this virus, can we still afford it? If we ever could! What price vanity.

  3. Is there any monitoring of birds nest, bats etc.? OK silly question because such folk will possibly be chosen for their belief in the spin peddled by HS2 Ltd (greenest transport project ever etc.)?

    Surely the bottom line is that the developers and Government were warned about protected species, as they go ahead and if and when they break the law I guess they'll get the judges back again to smooth over those few pesky problems?

    It will be interesting to read the reasons the judges refused when they publish them on Monday. Why they weren't available on the day (given presumably they were the reason they rejected the application) is something of a mystery (but no real surprise) ....

    Rant over, reflection till Monday & thank you Chris Packham et. al. for taking on the first 'sling shot'

  4. Chris Packham looked distraught in the video, and I can’t blame him. There’s inevitability about HS2 that defies logic.

    Something wonderful has been happening over the past three weeks, people across these Isles have put the health of others first instead of themselves; some have died and will continue to die. The NHS has stepped up to the plate and is accountable.

    If ever there was a time for our conservation charities to do the same – it’s now. There’s been a lot of hot air as usual from the sidelines from them; it’s time for each and every one of them to bury their petty grievances with each other, stop being the insular, self-centered organizations that see others as financial rivals and work together.

    There are an awful lot of people who work within these organizations that are on a pretty good screw – its time these people stepped up to the plate too!

    1. I'm not sure what you mean by "stepping up to the plate".
      If you mean regarding HS2, then from my perspective I have seen RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and Buglife campaigning endlessly against HS2 in a fairly well co-ordinated campaign. Can you tell us constructively what exactly you would want them to do. It's very easy to be critical and we are all guilty of it (including me) from time to time but it's practical deliverable strategies that work (sometimes) - so what's your strategy?

      1. When you run a successful business you put in place different scenario’s for all the different situations that the business may face, some you can’t predict others you can. So, you plan not to be surprised or caught financially unawares.

        HS2 was always going to happen, I’ve always said that, and the Tory’s election in December confirmed that. Taking the government to court should have happened a long time ago, it’s now too late and all that’s happening is the money raised is going into the lawyer’s pockets.

        Your right the conservation charities have been campaigning to their members on social media – great they like to do this, it makes them look active for the member’s who write the cheques, but they needed a contingency plan if the bottom falls out, as it has done.

        Can you imagine if the NHS had told us, we have no plans for this virus, you’re on your own, and that’s what the charities have effectively done? Their job is conservation, no matter what form it takes, campaigning, translocation or assuagement, they have to have a solution, and if they don’t then they’re not capable of running a conservation business.

        My experience of working with them, is they don’t communicate with one other, if for once they got over this elitist crap that infects them all, and unite with a nature action plan, then maybe conservation in the UK wouldn’t be in such a state.

        They get paid to come up with a strategy, not me, there’s enough of them working within the sector to be mobilized into an effective body. Even if they came up with a Noah’s ark solution some of these plants, species could be saved – they just have to have the inclination and purpose to extract themselves from their open planned offices and do what we pay them to do.

        1. I must admit to being a bit confused by your argument(s).
          Firstly you contend that HS2 was always going to happen. Then you berate the NGOs for apparently not spending more time, effort and money on fighting the thing you say was always going to happen - or do I misunderstand you.
          "Their job is conservation, no matter what form it takes, campaigning, translocation or assuagement, they have to have a solution, and if they don’t then they’re not capable of running a conservation business." Sorry this is just a logical fallacy.
          Finally, I'm sorry that your "experience of working with them, is they don’t communicate with one other". My experience (40+ years in the sector) is quite different.
          Finally, no of course you are not paid to come up with a strategy but I'd still be interested in what it is.

  5. Is there any monitoring, or commenting on of any kind, (by the RSPB, or Wild Justice) for example, of the millions of birds nests, and all other wildlife, breeding and otherwise predated by cats in the UK. Mysteriously, there is not. Does the RSPB perhaps get a lot of money from cat owners? You decide.
    As Extinction Rebellion say: "Tell the Truth". For once in your lives, give it a go. Who are the spinners, and who are the spun? Again, you decide.

    1. Of course you can provide scientifically verified evidence for this, otherwise you would not be making the claim.
      However all of the so called papers or quoted evidence for this uses, in terms of cat population a tiny sample and is thus probably unrepresentative of the impact or otherwise of domestic cats. The chances are that any such impact is restricted to around human habitations where cats can be at quite high densities, it is also thus likely that any such impact is limited to those common species found in such habitats. It thus seems likely that whilst cats may have impacts they are limited in both range and species effected without any measurable impact on the majority of habitats or species.
      To me at least rants about cats are usually just that and almost certainly unfounded in science.

      1. I should have added of course that any impact or otherwise by cats on wildlife is totally irrelevant to the undoubted impact of HS2 on ancient woodlands along the route and the effects of that on a wide range of important and scarce species.

    2. What's this got to do with the Judicial Review of HS2? It's just a bit of ranty rhetoric. Grow up.

    3. Nice of you to invite us all to decide for ourselves, Rick. With a very small number of mouse clicks I found that, contrary to what you state, the RSPB has indeed commented on the topic of cat predation on song-birds. Their comments are based on studies undertaken by the Mammal Society. I think the comments the RSPB makes are balanced and reflect the likelihood that cats are not generally an important factor in the decline of song-birds but can potentially be a problem in certain situations.
      You clearly think cats are the root of all evil but I think there is no evidence in support of your insinuation that there is something sinister in the fact that conservation organisations are by and large prioritising other conservation issues. In my view they are right to do so.
      One issue of enormous concern to all wildlife is the fact that it is consistently pushed aside to make way for whatever commercial activity we humans propose to carry out. The legal protection for wildlife is time and again shown to be too weak and too feebly applied whenever someone wants to concrete over some piece of habitat. The crashing of the HS2 line through precious and notionally protected habitats such as ancient woodland is a highly prominent example of this and rather than throwing irrelevant red-herrings into the discussion you might consider directing your outrage at this.


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