Court of Appeal to rule on Chris Packham legal challenge

File photo dated 20/03/18 of Chris Packham, who has said that he hopes people will establish a
File photo dated 20/03/18 of Chris Packham, who has said that he hopes people will establish a "new normal" once the coronavirus pandemic is over in order tackle environmental issues.

The Court of Appeal is set to rule on a bid by Chris Packham to bring a legal challenge against the Government over the controversial HS2 rail scheme.

The TV presenter argues that a major review of the project gave a “very incomplete assessment of environmental matters”, which meant the Government gave the scheme the green light based on a “complete misapprehension” of the environmental impact.

Mr Packham took his fight to the Court of Appeal after being refused permission by two High Court judges in April to bring a case over the Government’s decision to approve the project.

HS2 project
An artist’s impression of an HS2 train on the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct (HS2/PA)

At a hearing in July, lawyers for Mr Packham told three Court of Appeal judges there were failings in the way the Government reached its decision to give the HS2 project the go-ahead.

In written submissions, David Wolfe QC, for Mr Packham, argued that ministers would have proceeded with making a decision on HS2 on the basis that the report from the Government-commissioned Oakervee Review would have explained what they needed to know about the environmental impacts of the project, when in fact, it did not.

The Oakervee Review was set up to examine whether and how HS2 should proceed.

Mr Wolfe said: “The report gave a very incomplete assessment of environmental matters. That mattered, because it meant the decision-maker Secretary of State then proceeded (when balancing its various pros and cons) on a complete misapprehension of the existence and/or scale of the environmental impacts of the scheme.”

Timothy Mould QC, barrister for the Government, argued that Mr Packham’s claim should be dismissed.

In court documents, he said the High Court judges were right to dismiss the claim and argued that it “has no realistic prospect of success”.

Mr Mould also said: “It is simply fanciful for the appellant to assume that the first respondent (the Secretary of State for Transport) knew nothing about the public legislative and procedural history of HS2, including the comprehensive assessment of environmental impacts undertaken in accordance with parliamentary procedures, beyond that which was drawn to his attention by the report itself.”

HS2 is a new high-speed rail network that, when completed, should connect London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, along with other points in the country.

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