Breaking: Consultation on compensation over high speed rail link ruled illegal

High speed Javelin train at Ashford station, HS2

A judge has upheld protesters’ complaints against the consultation on the compensation for residents affected by the High Speed 2 rail project between London and Birmingham.

However, Mr Justice Ouseley also dismissed nine other grounds on which they challenged the transport secretary’s decision to progress the scheme.

Despite the legal setback the ruling is not expected to affect the timetable for the project.

A group of fifteen local authorities had claimed that a variety of elements of the project’s planning had not met the necessary legal requirements including breaches of requirements for environmental impact assessments; that the consultation process on the route lacked enough detail and that it ignored material considerations of the capacity on the London underground.

Claims from four other groups including not for profit organisation HS2 Action Alliance and a local golf course were also heard at the same time.

Nine of the ten grounds on which the claims rested were rejected by the judge.

But Mr Justice Ouseley upheld the claim that the consultation on the compensation scheme for residents along the route was unfair enough to be unlawful.

He said: “The secretary of state did not provide consultees with sufficient information about how the three options for a discretionary compensation scheme might be applied or made to work differently in practice for informed responses to be made as to which one should be taken forward for detailed consultation.”

Nevertheless high speed rail minister Simon Burns claimed the ruling was a “landmark victory” for the government.

He said: “The judgement ensures that nothing now stands in the way of taking our plans to Parliament.

“We will now move forward as planned with the crucial business of getting the scheme ready for construction in 2017 and delivering enormous benefits for the country.”

Hilary Wharf, director of HS2 Action Alliance, also claimed the result was a “huge victory”.

She added: “The government’s shabby attempt to railroad through an inadequate compensation scheme whilst ignoring the views of ordinary people have been judged to be unlawful.
“The government must now go back to the drawing board and rethink its approach to compensation.

“If the events of the last 12 months weren’t enough here is a legal decision which further confirms that the Department for Transport is not fit for purpose.”