Mike O’Brien has expressed disappointment at the decision by the Supreme Court to reject a bid by objectors to HS2 to force the government to reconsider the environmental impact of it’s plans.
Objectors said that the Government had not complied with its own rules but the court unanimously rejected the claims. These claims related to phase one of the scheme – the London to Birmingham route, which includes the area around Coleshill, Water Orton and Middleton. The legal challenge was made by a number of objectors, including North Warwickshire Borough Council, the HS2 Action Alliance and other local councils along the proposed route.
It is anticipated that there will in future be another legal case about phase 2 (beyond Birmingham) after that exact route is announced in November.
Mike O’Brien, who is a QC and the former MP for North Warwickshire and Bedworth has always been an opponent of the scheme. He said,
“This is a disappointing decision, but not entirely unexpected. I regularly argue cases before the courts and have another case before the Supreme Court at the moment. I can tell you these judges are a tough crowd to deal with. Getting them to hold the government to account on a national project like this was always going to be an up hill task.
“None the less the case by the local councils and the objectors looked strong. HS2 will in my view cause an unacceptable level of environmental damage, loss of homes and disruption to many communities, like those in North Warwickshire.
“This is the most important rail decision for a generation and we know the government has broken its promise to consult widely and to consider alternatives to its preferred scheme.
“MP’s in Oxford got changes to the route because they were ministers but near Water Orton we failed to get changes here. For instance the proposals for high gantries and raised tracks near Water Orton are bizarre, look unworkable and would clearly damage the local environment. The government would not listen to our objections and now the Supreme Court has refused to intervene.
“The case which the objectors argued was that the government had breached an EU directive by failing to carry out a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and a second argument around a second EU directive, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIAD). These EU regulations offered us some assistance as objectors, but the Supreme Court has ruled that government has squeaked through the Directives. This is not the end because a complaint might be made to the European Commission that the UK government has not complied with its European law obligations on the environment. There will also probably be a challenge over phase 2 next year.”