A resounding victory for DfT in the Supreme Court has seen seven Law Lords unanimously reject the legal challenge by objectors to HS2 about whether the government has correctly followed legislation in assessing HS2’s environmental impact.
The Supreme Court also brought the matter firmly to a close by dismissing any right of appeal to Europe.
Two issues were central to the Supreme Court hearing:
- Whether there should have been a Strategic Economic Assessment. Here the Supreme Court was clear that Parliament is autonomous and not bound by any criteria in previous Government statements, such as the 2012 Command Paper on HS2, in considering the HS2 hybrid bill. Therefore the merits of HS2 remain fully open to debate until Parliament reaches its decision on the hybrid bill with the purpose enshrined in the SEA Directive being to ensure that decisions on development consent are not constrained by earlier plans.
- Whether the hybrid bill procedure is compliant with the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. Here, the Supreme Court was not persuaded by the contention that the procedure envisaged by the Government will not permit an adequate examination of environmental information to take place and concluded that there is no reason to suppose that Members of Parliament will be unable properly to examine and debate HS2.
This seems to be a victory both for common sense and the role of Parliament and our elected representatives.