A TV naturalist is launching a legal challenge to HS2, following the overturning of plans to build a third runway at Heathrow by the Court of Appeal on environmental grounds.
The Court ruled that the government’s plans for the new runway were illegal, because they did not take into account the government’s commitment to deal with the climate crisis.
Naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham is to argue that that the go-ahead for HS2 announced by Boris Johnson last month also failed to make allowance for carbon emissions and their effect on the climate. The environmental statement for HS2 was drawn up in 2013, which was before the government had signed the Paris agreement and committed the United Kingdom to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The challenge is being financed by crowdfunding. Tom Short, who is a solicitor at the law firm Leigh Day, said ‘environmental impacts relevant to the decision whether to proceed have not been properly assessed’.
He added that his client was clear that ‘the law, and moral logic, require the government to think again’.
The Department for Transport is now considering the implications of the action. It said: ‘We understand campaigners’ concerns, and have tasked HS2 Ltd to deliver one of the UK’s most environmentally responsible infrastructure projects. When finished, HS2 will play a key part in our efforts to tackle climate change, reducing carbon emissions by providing an alternative to domestic flights and cutting congestion on our roads.’
Meanwhile, the debate continues over the line’s effect on wildlife and ancient woodlands. HS2 Ltd has denied claims by protestors that the new railway would destroy almost 700 important sites, including more than 100 ancient woodlands. The high speed line developer said only 62 ancient woodlands would be affected, and most of these would not be destroyed.