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Government faces legal challenges over HS2

A series of legal challenges has been mounted against the government over its High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link plans

Two bids have been launched by HS2 Action Alliance, which represents more than 70 community groups.

The first, submitted yesterday, is based on the alleged breach of two ‘core environmental directives’ by the proposed £33 billion rail link running out of London’s Euston Station to Birmingham and the north of England.

Thomas Crane, campaign coordinator for HS2 Action Alliance, said: ‘EU law states that there should be a Strategic Environmental Assessment prior to large-scale development works. There is also the Habitats Directive that lists wildlife species worthy of protection. We believe HS2 conflicts with both.’

HS2 Action Alliance’s second legal challenge, which will be submitted today (4 April), argues that the government has not provided sufficient compensation arrangements to the residents and businesses affected by the rail link.

‘The government has promised both in and out of parliament that people would be properly compensated. But there has been a huge mismatch between government words and actions on HS2,’ said Crane.

The Department for Transport will have 21 days to respond to the challenges before the case is taken to the courts.

A judicial review has also been launched by 15 members of 51m, a group of 19 local authorities who oppose the rail link.

Their challenge is based on four points: that there has been inadequate consultation for the scheme; that the impact of the rail link on the underground system at Euston has not been properly considered; that the government has not undertaken a Strategic Environmental Assessment and is in breach of the EU’s Habitats Directive; and that the plan has not complied with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, which states that the public should be allowed to participate in environmental decision-making processes.

Martin Tett, leader of Buckingham County Council and chairman of 51m, said: ‘The government has left us with no alternative. It is clear that there is a cheaper and more efficient way to meet growth in demand.

There’s a cheaper way to meet growth and avoids knocking down hundreds of homes outside Euston

‘This would benefit far more towns and cities in the Midlands and north of England and avoid knocking down hundreds of houses outside Euston Station. We have clear legal advice that there is a substantial case to be made against the government for the cavalier way they took this decision.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: ‘We believe we have struck the right balance between the reasonable concerns of people living on or near the line (who will be offered a package of compensation measures), the environment and the need to keep Britain moving. The Secretary of State’s decisions on high speed rail remain as set out in January and work on HS2 is continuing as planned. We are confident that the process by which she reached those decisions was lawful, appropriate and fair, and we will be vigorously defending any legal challenge.’

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