Press release Leigh Day and Chris Packham on HS2

Case for HS2 should be revisited despite disappointing court ruling, says Chris Packham

Environmental campaigner Chris Packham CBE says the case for HS2 should be revisited despite today’s disappointing Court of Appeal ruling.

Mr Packham has spoken out following a Court of Appeal judgment which refused permission on two grounds for a judicial review into the Cabinet’s decision to give the multi-billion pound project the “green signal” on11 February 2020.

Mr Packham maintains that the COVID-19 pandemic’s massive impact on public finances and the need for a green recovery (including a substantial change in attitudes towards home-working and remote business meetings) has undone the business and environmental case for HS2.

Chris Packham said:

Obviously we are deeply disappointed by today’s ruling. But the fact is, we are a world away from the place we were when we issued the original claim for judicial review.

COVID-19 has turned the state of the UK finances and the public’s attitudes towards climate change upside down.

People now see that a scheme for a railway which will tear up the countryside so that we can shave a few minutes off a journey time, makes no sense in the contemporary workplace.

The HS2 project is not about the future, it’s about preserving a past which has now changed so radically since the pandemic.

In a 51-page judgment handed down today, three Lord Justices of Appeal refused Mr Packham’s appeal against his earlier (6 April 2020) refusal of a judicial review.

Mr Packham had appealed on two grounds. The first concerned the question of whether the Cabinet was correctly advised on the existence and extent of environmental information before it when considering the report of the Oakervee Panel. Second, that the Government failed to take account of the effect of the project on greenhouse gas emissions and global temperature rise between now and 2050, in the light of its obligations under the Paris Agreement and the Climate Change Act 2008.

On the first ground, the judges ruled that the environmental impacts of HS2 had been assessed in detail through the Parliamentary process and the Cabinet’s decision-making could not have been made without proper regard to those conclusions.

On the second, the Court held that because the decision arising out of the Oakervee Review was not subject to any form of statutory scheme, the Government was at liberty to select the issues on which it was advised by the Review and that it was not constrained by the Climate Change Act 2008 or by any policy of its own. But in any event, the Court of Appeal held that it can be taken that the Government was fully aware of its commitments under the Paris Agreement and responsibilities under the Climate Change Act 2008 and to have taken those commitments and responsibilities into account.

The Divisional Court had also held that Mr Packham had not brought the claim promptly as it had been brought within six weeks and three days of the Cabinet decision in February 2020. The Court of Appeal overturned the lower Court’s judgment, ruling that the claim had been brought well within the three-month limit that lawfully applies in such cases.

Mr Packham was represented by Tom Short and Carol Day, Solicitors at Leigh Day and by David Wolfe QC at Matrix Chambers and Merrow Golden at Francis Taylor Building.

Solicitor Carol Day said:

This is a very disappointing judgment. Most people would assume that when the Government makes a commitment to tackle climate change under international and domestic law, that commitment will be both fully understood and fully considered in all of its decision-making. However, today’s judgment suggests a less demanding approach can be lawful. Our client believes this is wrong and is pursuing the possibility of an appeal.”



4 Replies to “Press release Leigh Day and Chris Packham on HS2”

  1. This of course a very disappointing judgement. It seems to me to be misguided and erroneous. Of course Chris Packham is 100% right. Common sense tells you that HS2 is totally crazy. It is crazy on many accounts.
    Firstly computer technology is now giving us the ability work at home and to hold meetings over the internet so drastically reducing the need to travel. So HS2 is redundant already on this single account.
    Secondly the CO2 emissions to construct and run this monster will be enormous.
    Thirdly our countryside will be devastated. They are already ripping up top class nature reserves and destroying nature and our wildlife.
    Fourthly it will cost a gargantuan sum of money just when huge sums of money are needed for the NHS and else where to fight this virus and keeping people employed.
    It is all being done in the name of shaving five or ten minutes off travel time sheer lunacy.
    As I say, common sense tells one that HS2 is the logic of the madhouse but of course it is being driven by politics and the two are very close together under this terrible Government. We, 4the general public will be paying for this monstrous folly for tens of years to come.

  2. So the judgement agrees with the politics of the mad house. Scandalous even though it could be argued it was predictable. HS2 started off as a Blairite vanity project, now it is a hugely costly environmental and financial disastrous white elephant.

    1. It is often the case that opposition to undesirable stuff only surfaces publically at the eleventieth hour. Lost count of regulatory amendments where that happens. I’m for putting the boot in ASAP rather than wait for the Heffalump to gather momentum.

      1. Oh dear again a lot of misinformation and false assumptions around this project.

        1. Its purpose is not to shave a few minutes off journey times, its to provide the extra capacity needed now, on existing railway routes. Without HS2, much more costly and time consuming upgrades would be required on the East Coast mainline, the Midland Mainline and the West Coast mainline.

        2. This capacity will enable more local passenger trains on these lines, but also more paths for freight trains, the effort should be focused on accelerating the shift of goods from road to rail traffic.

        3. To assume that technology and changing work patterns will reduce the requirement for travel is an unproven assumption. Where is the evidence that people will travel less, whether for business or leisure and personal purposes? To draw conclusions from the current state of play with the Covid-19 pandemic is completely false and frankly delusional.

        2. The destruction of the countryside and woodland is far less than a number of road schemes that are being under taken, the focus surely should be on why these are needed? Or are we so wedded to the notion of the freedom to drive that improving our national railway infrastructure is ignored?

        3. Improving connectivity and journey times within the country must surely sound the death knell for internal flights? This would be of significant environmental benefits and reduce Co2 emissions.

        4. Far from preserving the past, its a project that aims to bring railway travel into the current century. Our railways were built during the Victorian era, when incidentally there was a similar opposition with statements like “why does every fool need to be in Bakewell in half an hour?”, “these roaring monsters will curdle the milk”, “they will desecrate the countryside” and so on. It seems nobody likes change and oppose what they do not fully understand! Makes one wonder why we are not still using horses for transport!

        5. Yes the cost seems high, but it is comparable with similar infrastructure projects elsewhere in Europe and we are making an investment for the next 50 – 100 years, in a sustainable electric transport system, which despite the false assumptions made will be required.

        I have great respect for Chris Packham as an ecologist and naturalist, unfortunately his expertise is not transport or economics and it shows.

        For me this not only a waste of time and money which could be used to address other more pressing matters, but it also cements a view of government and business that the “green movement” is unrealistic, has a lack of understanding about how life works and is not to be taken seriously.

        We do have to live in the real world, in fact we all do, and for those of the current generation who will use and benefit what we use now this type of opposition is nonsensical.

        I’m not for one moment saying that this project hs been planned or conducted perfectly, but thats my point, rather than oppose projects (mostly I suspect because those that do see no use for it themselves and it is therefore easy to make a case) we should ensure that they are done in an appropriate manner, that all conditions and requirements regarding protecting or reducing the impact on the environment are adhered to and discussed and agreed at the start.

        Regrettably this Government seem intent on doing the opposite, which makes credible and informed dialogue and pressure all the more important.

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