Changes to judicial reviews announced as 15 councils take Government to court over HS2

Above Martin Tett at an anti-HS2 rally. Below, David Cameron speaking with anti-HS2 campaigners last month in Wendover
Above Martin Tett at an anti-HS2 rally. Below, David Cameron speaking with anti-HS2 campaigners last month in Wendover

The cost of challenging Government decisions through a judicial review is set to be increased, under plans unveiled just two weeks before the start of a high court action against the HS2 plans.

David Cameron told the CBI conference in London that opponents of planning decisions will get less time to apply for a review, pay higher fees and the number of opportunities to appeal will be reduced by half.

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He said: “We urgently needed to get a grip on this. So here’s what we’re going to do. Reduce the time limit when people can bring cases, charge more for reviews so people think twice about time-wasting. And instead of giving hopeless cases up to four bites of the cherry to appeal a decision, we will halve that to two.”

In response Martin Tett, leader of Bucks County Council and chairman of the 51m group of 18 councils fighting the HS2 plans, said: “The Prime Minister is right to draw attention to examples of misuse of judicial reviews where these are inappropriate and merely time wasting.

“We all want to see economic growth and the Government investing in the right strategic infrastructure. However, it is rarely the case that judicial reviews are the ‘road block’ implied. The vast majority of judicial reviews are not about major infrastructure projects but rather relate to immigration and asylum cases.

“We must be careful not to brand everything that we find inconvenient as inherently wrong or malicious.

“For local people a judicial reviews may be the only way for local people or businesses to prevent public bodies acting illegally.

“The recent example of the legal challenge by Virgin Rail to the West Coast Main Line franchise process exposed fundamental flaws in the procedures adopted by the Department for Transport in awarding that and other franchises.

“Major changes have been made for the public good as a result. Additionally, of course, the Conservative party and in particular the previous secretary of state for transport supported the judicial review of the former Labour Government’s decision on the third Heathrow runway.

“In two weeks’ time Buckinghamshire and 14 other local authorities are legally challenging the Department for Transport’s decision to proceed with HS2.

“We are doing this with immense reluctance, however we feel that we have been left with no alternative.

“This immensely expensive project ignores the Davis Review of aviation policy, has an abysmal business case and represents extremely poor value for hard pressed taxpayers’ money.

“Far better alternatives exist to build the infrastructure the country desperately needs more quickly and at far lower cost.

“We cannot let the Department for Transport with its atrocious record on managing key investment decisions not answer for why these have been ignored.”