Deadline for councils’ objections to HS2 passes without resolution

Councils opposed to the £32bn high speed rail project are braced to launch a legal challenge after a deadline set for a government response to their objections passed this week without a resolution.

The 18 councils, which have formed an alliance dubbed 51M - referring to the estimated cost of the line to each parliamentary constituency across the country - wrote to transport secretary Justine Greening outlining their objections to the HS2 project and warned that they would seek a judicial review of the government’s decision to go ahead with the scheme.

The “letter before claim”, dated 3 February, is a necessary step in seeking a judicial review and asked for a government response within 14 days.

A spokesperson for 51M said the alliance had just received the government’s response and it was with their legal team.

“We can’t say anything further at this stage. We are now waiting on our legal advice,” she said.

Last week Camden council sent a similar letter, citing its own objections to the scheme, and has given the government until 29 February to respond. It said if it did not receive a “satisfactory” response, it would join 51M in seeking a judicial review.

The councils say they have been inspired by opposition to expansion at Heathrow, which ended in the abandonment of a third runway proposal.

The 51M letter, drafted by law firm Harrison Grant, cited five grounds on which the councils believe the decision to approve HS2 was flawed, leading to “major and serious errors of law”.

The letter cited a “fundamentally flawed” consultation on the route of the scheme; failure to provide a sound economic case; as well as what it said was an “irrational” decision to ignore the concerns of Transport for London that the Euston underground station at the HS2 terminus would not cope with expected passenger flows.

A Department for Transport spokesperson 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.”