The Court of Appeal has thrown out challenges to HS2 brought about by 15 councils and other objectors.
The Master of the Rolls (Lord Chief Justice Dyson), Lord Richards and Lord Justice Sullivan handed down their decision dismissing the appeals brought against the Department for Transport's decision to progress with High Speed 2 (HS2) by an alliance of 15 local authorities, HS2 Action Alliance and Heathrow Hub Ltd.
Councillor Martin Tett, chairman of 51m and Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council said: "Yes, we are disappointed with the result. On four ground brought to the court of appeal by the local authorities, the appeal judges found against on the technicality that in theory Parliament is not bound by any decision of the Government and could chose to reject or amend the project.
"Most significantly there was a split decision by the three judges on the first ground that a full Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) should have been carried out to assess the effect on the environment of both HS2 and its alternatives. Whilst the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Richards supported the DfT's contention that no SEA was required as HS2 was not a 'plan or a programme', Lord Justice Sullivan - one of the country's leading environmental and planning judges -disagreed."
Councill Tett, proposing an alternative scheme, commented: "Lord Justice Sullivan gives a very strong steer that HS2 Ltd has failed both in its obligation to fully assess the environmental implications of the project and vitally to assess these against the alternative we have put forward. His comments in his judgement are damning on the DfT's approach, stating: 'If, as I have concluded, an SEA is required and there has not been substantial compliance with the SEA Directive, it would be difficult to think of a more egregious breach of the Directive given the scale of the HS2 project and the likely extent of its effects on the environment'."
Mr Tett concluded: "This is another example of the DfT and HS2 Ltd riding roughshod over public, opinion, ploughing ahead regardless of what local communities want and ignoring the environmental merits of the alternatives. We have evidence that our alternative to HS2 would provide all of the capacity required, far more quickly, at a fraction of the cost and would be less damaging to the environment."
The local authorities have asked for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the land on the SEA ground and on an additional, and related, grounf that the Hybrid Bill process is incompatible with another aspect of European Law, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.