Final HS2 appeal thrown out at Supreme Court

The final attempt to block government plans for the construction of the proposed £50bn High Speed 2 (HS2) railway through the courts has been thrown out at the Supreme Court.

high speed rail

Landmark Chambers’ Tim Mould QC and James Maurici QC batted off the joined judicial review appeal brought by the HS2 Action Alliance, Heathrow Hub Ltd and Hillingdon London Borough Council (LBC).

The court unanimously held that the scheme had not failed to comply with the procedural requirements of EU law and meet environmental assessment regulations. The campaigners had argued that the government should have carried out a strategic environmental assessment under European law before presenting the hybrid bill to parliament.

Maurici was added to roster representing the Department for Transport (DfT) at the October 2013 hearing in front of the seven-strong panel of judges led by President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger.  

Hillingdon London Borough Council turned to Harrison Grant partner Kate Harrison, who instructed Landmark Chambers’ Nathalie Lieven QC and Monckton Chambers’ Kassie Smith QC to lead the appeal.

Fellow appellant Heathrow Hub turned to Nabarro partner Christopher Stanwell, who instructed Landmark Chambers’ Charles Banner.

Campaign Group HS2 Action Alliance was  by Landmark Chambers’ David Elvin QC instructed by King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin partner Simon Ricketts.

Supreme Court Justice Lord Reed said the claimants’ argument that the procedure currently envisaged by the Government would not permit an adequate examination of the environmental information was ”unpersuasive”.

But Supreme Court deputy president, Lady Hale said: “I have not found this an easy case. HS2 will be the largest infrastructure project carried out in this country since the development of the railways in the 19th century. Whatever the economic and social benefits it may bring, it will undoubtedly have a major impact upon the environment.”

However the Supreme Court justices unanimously dismissed the appeal. It marks the end of the road for the campaigners who have now been thwarted at the High Court (15 March 2013) and Court of Appeal. The Department for Transport won nine out of 10 challenges at the High Court and all seven appeals to the Court of Appeal (24 July 2013).

The three claimants had appealed against Mr Justice Ouseley’s 15 March 2013 decision on grounds relating to the application of EU environmental directives, grounds relating to the lawfulness of the consultation process and other grounds relating to the lawfulness of the decision to proceed with HS2.

In their leading judgment, the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson and Lord Justice Richards dismissed three grounds of appeal and refused permission to appeal on other grounds. But the three groups were subsequently given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Before the Supreme Court case the government’s legal bill for defending the case was expected to hit £5m with £400,000 already spent on battles in the High Court and Court of Appeal (CoA) (27 September 2013). 

The legal line-up 

For the first appellant, HS2 Action Alliance

Landmark Chambers’ David Elvin QC and Charles Banner, instructed by King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin partner Simon Ricketts

For the second appellant Buckinghamshire County Council and others

Landmark Chambers’ Nathalie Lieven QC and Monckton Chambers’ Kassie Smith QC, instructed by Harrison Grant partner Kate Harrison

For the third appellant Heathrow Hub and another

Landmark Chambers’ Charles Banner, instructed by Nabarro partner Christopher Stanwell and senior associate Rob Bruce

For the respondent, the Secretary of State for Transport

Landmark Chambers’ Tim Mould QC, James Maurici QC, Jacqueline Lean and Richard Turney, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor