We look at the three key messages that can be taken from Mr Justice Ouseley’s recent rulings on legal challenges to HS2

Marnix Elsenaar

We can take three key messages from the HS2 judgment, none of which should come as a surprise.

First, the government must take real care how it runs its consultations – it must set out the proposed options clearly and, in assessing the responses, apply the criteria that it has said it will apply.

Second, as long as public authorities act reasonably, they are entitled to make decisions and it’s not for the court to substitute its view for that of parliament on issues such as network capacity and the merits of the scheme.

Third, the court has provided a robust decision on the scope of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and Environmental Impact Assessments and avoided “scope creep” for these procedures which will be reassuring for promoters.

The judgment should be seen in the context of concerns about the delays caused by judicial review and the threat of judicial review to building and infrastructure projects. The government has issued a consultation paper seeking views on its proposals to limit the number of judicial reviews and with this judgment the court is doing its bit to discourage use of the court system by objectors, sending a clear message that objections on the merits of a scheme should be made through the planning or parliamentary process.

While the consultation on the compensation scheme will need to be re-run, the judgment is good news for HS2 and we can expect to see the promoters pressing on with the scheme.

To read our news story on the ruling click here.

Marnix Elsenaar is a partner at law firm Addleshaw Goddard