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High Court finds HS2 compensation consultation 'unlawful'

Leigh Day have won their latest High Court battle, on behalf of the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA

Posted on 15 March 2013

Leigh Day have today won their latest High Court battle, on behalf of the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), against the proposed compensation scheme for those living near the route of the planned controversial, high-speed rail link HS2.

This judicial review of the Government’s plans was heard in December 2012. It concerns the compensation for those living near the proposed line. Thousands of people who live in communities affected by HS2 will be impacted by property ‘blight’, unable to sell their properties or only at a large loss for the many years until the line is opened.

In his judgment handed down today (Friday 15th March), Mr Justice Ouseley agreed “on the assumption that the line is operational as intended from 2026, blight could paralyse the local property market for at least 15 years.” (para 685).

HS2AA argued that the government has ruled out options which would avoid the blighting of many thousands of people’s homes without considering them properly. These options have variously been adopted successfully for other infrastructure projects in the UK and other European countries.

The blight and uncertainty has caused substantial financial worry and stress to many thousands of ordinary people who through no fault of their own found themselves living near to the route of HS2. The legal challenge claimed that the Government provided inadequate information during the consultation, preventing the public from being able to give a meaningful response.

HS2AA alleged that the decision, which followed the consultation, was therefore without proper justification, ignored the Government’s own criteria and relied on new undisclosed material. HS2AA also point to the Government’s broken promises of a fair deal for those suffering losses due to the project.

Mr Justice Ouseley agreed that in relation to the consultation ”Inadequate information was provided [by the Government] for consultees on what was to become the unheralded basis for the decision. It was unfair to change the basis of the decision given the nature of the information which the Government had provided, in particular against the backdrop of its stated aims and concerns.” (para 802)

Mr Justice Ouseley concluded “The consultation process in respect of blight and compensation was all in all so unfair as to be unlawful.” (para 843)

Richard Stein from the Human Rights team at law firm Leigh Day who is representing HS2AA said: "We are delighted by this result. This was never a NIMBY argument. Many thousands of people living along the route will not be able to sell their homes for some fifteen years because their homes are blighted. They should not have to bear the burden for this national project.

"We hope now that proper arrangements are put in place by the Government for compensation for those who live by the proposed HS2 route to make it possible for them to move if and when they wish, in the same way that the rest of us can."

Hilary Wharf, Director, HS2AA, said: “Today’s judgement is a huge victory for the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are blighted by HS2.The Government’s shabby attempt to railroad through an inadequate compensation scheme whilst ignoring the views of ordinary people have been judged to be unlawful.”

“The Government must now go back to the drawing board and rethink its approach to compensation.. There are many better compensation alternatives which would help all those up and down the country trapped by HS2."