Posted 4th March 2020 | 6 Comments

Naturalist prepares to sue DfT over HS2 go-ahead

 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.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Jez Milton, Manchester

    Packham is clueless. At peak times trains are full. At all times the WCML is overworked and unreliable. HS2 will transform rail travel and remove regional economic differentials.

  • Martin Marrison, Haywards Heath

    I wonder what Chris Packams propose alternative is? To be credible he needs to come up with an realistic alternative.....

  • Melvyn, Canvey Island , Essex

    Another person who fails to explain how people are to move about but simply lives in some fantasyland which takes no account of most people to work to live !

    As for encouraging planes well the TGVZ network in France has been highly successful in preventing the growth of internal flights and with HS2 cutting the journey time from London to Manchester in half by saving an hour it makes flying far more time consuming when one adds time getting to and from airports at both ends !

    So does he want 8 lanes of motorways devouring countryside and generating tons of pollution or a twin track railway with electric trains producing no pollution at source .

    Parliament has consistently voted 10/1 in favour of HS2 a far greater majority than Brexit got !

    I recently read that the planned lower Thames crossing will do far more environmental damage than the whole HS2 but I suppose Essex and Kent doesn’t matter compared to Chiltern nimbys ,..

    I’d love to see photos of vehicles used to transport their anti HS2 posters as I don't think they go by bike !

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    Another self-appointed world saviour set to waste millions more taxpayer dollars for his ridiculous argument, just like with the Ordsall Chord. If the third runway at Heathrow is indeed dead then HS2 IS the environmentally friendly alternative. How much environmental damage has HS1 done? With the mitigation efforts, arguably none, or even a net improvement. WHEN this is dismissed as without merit any costs incurred from further delays should be on his head.

  • Chris, Longstock

    What is the true environmental impact of the construction and operation of a two track railway compared with a 6 lane (+ 2 hard shoulders) motorway?

  • Christopher Neville-Smith, Durham

    I've read Chris Packham's case on his website. I have a lot of respect for Chris Packham, but on this occasion, his legal argument is very very weak.

    Ignoring the fact that by electricity supply is well on track to be zero-carbon by 2050, the reason given that HS2 is incompatible with the Paris Agreement is that it will facilitate airport expansion, with no explanation why. The only thing comes anywhere close to an argument is a vague suggestion that HS2 might make expansion of an airport other than Heathrow more viable.

    Even if this was the case - and that requires accepting a huge number of wild assumptions - surely the obvious way to prevent airport expansion is to not give the go-ahead to the airport expansion?