Bucks County Council will NOT take part in HS2 Supreme Court fight

Before and after: View of HS2 looking towards Wendover Dean
Before and after: View of HS2 looking towards Wendover Dean

The county council is giving £10,000 to the HS2 Action Alliance’s Supreme Court challenge against the £43 billion project - but will not take its own case to the court.

Appeals by Bucks County Council, the action alliance and a number of other councils were thrown out by the Court of Appeal, leaving the Supreme Court as the next option.

BCC Cllr Martin Tett

BCC Cllr Martin Tett

However, as the action alliance will be contesting the only ground for appeal on which there was a split decision, the council has decided it will be better to back the alliance’s case rather than paying for its own legal team.

Other councils have said they wish to continue to have their own representatives in court, but the Bucks authority is to leave the legal work to the alliance.

The court of appeal gave a split decision on whether the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd should have carried out a strategic environmental assessment before deciding to push ahead with the controversial project.

The court of appeal bid cost the county council £6,408.

The recruitment drive is launching at County Hall

The recruitment drive is launching at County Hall

Martin Tett, Bucks County Council leader and chairman of the 51m alliance of local authorities opposed to HS2, said: “We are determined that our contention that a strategic environmental assessment should have been carried out is heard in the Supreme Court.

“At the county council, we have decided that the most effective and most cost efficient way of doing this is by supporting the continuation of the HS2 Action Alliance case in the Supreme Court.

“Now that we are down to just this single, most important ground, it doesn’t make sense for us both to meet legal costs.

“HS2AA have led on the SEA and it makes complete sense for them to take it to the Supreme Court.

“We are also conscious that we are using taxpayers’ money and we are duty bound to use it wisely.

“We will therefore be making a £10,000 contribution towards HS2AA’s legal fund rather than commissioning our own legal team.

“This is because we believe that, were the appeal to succeed, there would be a clear and direct benefit to Buckinghamshire and its residents and on this basis it is proportionate to make a contribution to the HS2AA legal fund appeal.”

Mr Tett said by doing this the council can also afford to produce analysis to inform MPs ahead of the Hybrid Bill, continue work on mitigation should the scheme go ahead and petitioning for it during the Hybrid Bill process.

He said: “I am very confident that if the lack of a strategic environmental assessment is referred to the European Court, it will find, as Lord Justice Sullivan did, that the Department for Transport were in breach of their fundamental obligations with regard to the environment.”

Hilary Wharf, HS2 Action Alliance director, said they were ‘delighted’ with the contribution from the council.