Press release from Leigh Day law firm

Court of Appeal agrees to hear HS2 environmental challenge

The Court of Appeal has decided to hear Chris Packham’s appeal regarding an application for permission for judicial review of the Prime Minister’s decision to proceed with the HS2 railway project. The hearing has been listed for Wednesday, 8 July, 2020.

Lord Justice Lewison held that the matter is of “considerable public interest” and ordered that a rolled-up hearing be listed before mid-July in light of the fact that further works by HS2 Ltd and its contractors are scheduled to take place. A rolled-up hearing means that the court will first consider whether Mr Packham has permission to appeal and, if permission is granted, it will then immediately consider his application for judicial review.

On 3 April 2020 Mr Packham, represented by law firm Leigh Day, applied to the High Court for an interim injunction to stop the irreversible destruction of ancient woodlands pending the outcome of a substantive judicial review of the HS2 decision. The High Court declined to grant an injunction and refused permission for judicial review. Mr Packham subsequently sought permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal.

Mr Packham’s appeal focuses on two grounds both concerning alleged failings in the way in which the Prime Minister and the Transport Secretary reached their decision to give the HS2 project the go-ahead. First, Mr Packham contends that the Prime Minister and the Transport Secretary were told (and so would have proceeded from an understanding) that the Oakervee Report set out a sufficient account of environmental impacts for the purpose of their decision to go ahead with HS2, when in fact it had not done so. 

Second, that Mr Packham argues that the Prime Minister and the Transport Secretary failed to have regard to the implications of the Paris Agreement when they took the decision. The Paris Agreement requires a restriction on the global increase in temperature by 2050. Any addition in emissions between now and 2050 will negatively impact on such temperature increases and thereby on the commitments made under the Paris Agreement. It is Mr Packham’s case that in fact the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary were not told this and so they failed to take into account the implications of the Paris Agreement, particularly as regards the increase in carbon emissions during the construction period of HS2 (which predates 2050). 

In his appeal Mr Packham also highlights that the UK has put in place a series of consecutive five-yearly carbon budgets to steadily reduce emissions over the intervening period between now and 2050. The UK is not currently on track to meet its fourth and fifth budgets (which cover the years 2023-2032). The construction emissions from HS2 would, therefore, further undermine the Secretary of State’s duty to meet these carbon budgets (under section 4(1)(b) of the Climate Change Act 2008).  The appeal contends that the PM and Secretary of State were not informed about this issue before making their decision to go ahead.

Mr Packham said:

I am delighted that the Lord Justices see merit in hearing the appeal and that they have acknowledged the ‘considerable public interest’ in the case – a public interest which spans the heinous and irreparable damage done to ancient woodland, breeding birds, badgers and bats this Spring, the complete incompatibility of this project to the government’s obligations to address climate change, the appalling conduct of HS2 Ltd and its employees in a time of global crisis, and the future drain that the project will be on that public’s purse, which due to the pandemic is empty. The public have been conned by HS2, hopefully now we, the public, will see some justice.

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

Our client is encouraged by the Court of Appeal’s decision to hear his case and its recognition of the considerable public interest in the matter. He was disappointed by the lower court’s decision and welcomes the scrutiny of environmental concerns around the HS2 project that a hearing in the Court of Appeal will bring, including in respect of climate change considerations. As this week’s CCC report has shown, surface transport is the single highest emitting sector in the UK since 2015 and is off track to contribute as required to achieve Net Zero and meet our Paris obligations. Our client believes that a major surface transport project that increases emissions is contrary to the UK’s climate obligations and seriously risks imperilling our future. Mr Packham has been buoyed by the tremendous support his case has received from members of the public and from environmental experts who provided witness evidence including the RSPB and the Woodland Trust.

Mr Packham is represented by solicitors Tom Short and Carol Day, and paralegals Lewis Hadler and Rhiannon Adam, at law firm Leigh Day. Counsel for Mr Packham are David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers, and Merrow Golden of Francis Taylor Building.

ENDS

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14 Replies to “Press release from Leigh Day law firm”

  1. It would be interesting to know whether, and to what extent, the recent enforced shift in travel and working patterns might influence the attitude of the court.

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    1. Probably not favourably. People are shifting to cars to get away from plague infested public transport, and also the scenes of masses amounts of cars parked near beaches will also almost certainly stick in the mind. Their lordships will almost certainly decided that strong action is needed to force the peasantry out of cars and onto trains. That means prioritising things like HS2.

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      1. I don't think the purpose of hs2 is to get people onto the beaches. It's to move people from their homes to their offices and workplaces. Covid19 has raised the possibility of far more people working from home and interacting remotely rather than face to face. If that development gathers pace (which it could do once we realise that Covid19 isn't necessarily the last pandemic we'll ever see) then the economic imperative of moving more and more bodies into and out of London on a daily basis might diminish.

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      2. I don't think it is the mode of transport per se that people are trying to avoid but the virus vectors that they are hosting

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  2. Are these environmental expert witnesses the same as the ones that quickly jumped into bed with the Cambridge-Oxford arc developers?

    You can write all the green PR bollocks you like, when it comes to a payday it’s only one side these organisations bread is buttered.

    Packham for once is right we are irreparably damaging our ancient woodland, but HS2 damage is just a drop in the ocean compared to the vandalisation reeked by 100 years of the Forestry Commission and the rest of the cronies.

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    1. There have been some contradictory stories online and in the press regarding the views of the local Wildlife Trust, BBOWT, and the RSPB on development in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. Their relevant viewpoints on the matter can be found by accessing these articles:
      https://www.bbowt.org.uk/news/natures-arc-new-principles-protect-and-restore-nature-and-set-ambitious-environmental
      https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/groups/oxford/news/480476/

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    2. What "environmental expert witnesses"? This (if the justices agree to grant permission to appeal) is a Judicial Review - it does not as far as I am aware take evidence from expert witnesses but rather submissions from lawyers.

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    3. Thomas you are right. HS2 will actually damage 0.001% of ancient woodland, whilst helping to increase capacity om three rail routes out of London, the ECML, MML and the WCML. Plus of course eventually negating the requirement for internal domestic air travel.

      The primary use of this increased capacity will be freight traffic, switching from expensive and polluting road haulage.

      Yes there are questions over the environmental impact of Heathrows Third Runway and indeed numerous road schemes that are planned. But HS2 is in the medium term a positive improvement for the Uk's transport infrastructure, the crying shame is that we don't have a high speed rail network connecting the regions of the UK already, but it will come.

      Those who think the current situation will see less travel are mistaken. yes there may be a reduction in daily commuting, but thats not HS2's purpose, people will still need to travel for leisure, work, even maybe visiting the High Court or other organisations in London or other cities. Meeting will still happen because thats how human beings interact, the days when people rarely traveled far from their immediate locality disappeared over 50 years ago.

      I doubt I shall use HS2, but it is an essential piece of infrastructure, that will benefit all of the UK in time. I ahve the greatest respect for Chris Packham, but on this i think he is misguided and misinformed.

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  3. One can only admire Chris Packham’s tenacity and wish him the very best of luck on the 8th July. I think this lockdown has shown that it is quite satisfactory to hold meetings using Zoom or some other video link. One does not and will not need to travel on this wretched HS2 to get to meetings etc. The whole mad folly, if it is built, will be redundant before it is completed. Apart from that the potential destruction of nature, and wildlife and the CO2 emissions from the construction works don’t bear thinking about.
    Let’s hope that Chris’s appeal really carries the day.

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    1. "The whole mad folly" has been got up to enrich a very few people. There is no other explanation that fits the complete absence of logic.

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  4. I was always against the ancient woodlands being destroyed, what sensible person wouldn't be.
    So maybe I got it wrong, but wasn't the whole idea of a fast train system to the North supposed to make it...well fast of course and far less attractive to fly 'domestic', cutting the carbon footprint down?
    I thought for a short period of time, this is it, 'Great Britain' is going to innovate, make an awesome and super fast Magrail type transport link so astounding, that not only does it get people from London to Birmingham in 20 minutes and London to Leeds, or Manchester in 45 minutes, but it is so thrilling that it becomes a tourist attraction too. I have no idea how many people go on the incredibly slow and rather boring (were it not for the view) Millennium Wheel....but I bet's a stupidly large number.
    So how did we arrive at this lame ass own goal and let unimaginative, visionless muppets hijack it and make it into a pointless, waste of time and money whilst making it a natural heritage destroying free for all?

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