Objectors to the HS2 national high-speed rail project saw their latest challenge to the Government plans rejected in the Court of Appeal.
Fifteen council and other objects, including residents’ associations along the route, had asked the appeal judges to order further assessment of the scheme as a whole.
All grounds of the challenge were dismissed but defiant anti-HS2 campaigners drew comfort from a split in the three-judge court on the key question of whether a full strategic environmental assessment (SEA) should have been carried out to assess the impact of both HS2 and its alternatives.
Because of its public importance, the appeal court gave the objectors permission to bring a further appeal on the SEA issue before the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. They also gave permission for a further appeal over a second EU Directive - the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIAD).
Hilary Wharf, director of HS2 Action Alliance, welcomed the court’s decision to allow the Supreme Court to give a final decision on the scheme.
She said: “It’s a positive move and we are confident that, at the end of the day, the Government are going to have to do a strategic environmental assessment and take their environmental obligations seriously.”
But High Speed Rail Minister Simon Burns said: “By dismissing all seven grounds of appeal and declining to refer the case to Europe, this is the second time in four months a court has rejected attempts to derail HS2.
“Parliament is the right place to debate the merits of HS2, not the law courts, and we will introduce the hybrid Bill for Phase One before the year is out.
“I urge opponents not to waste any more taxpayers’ money on expensive litigation and instead work with us on making HS2 the very best it can be.
“We continue to move forward with the crucial business of getting the scheme ready for construction in 2017 and delivering enormous benefits for the country.”
Objectors say it will cost far too much to get HS2, as currently envisaged, up and running from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. They estimate £58 billion and rising.
The official cost of the project has recently climbed from £33 billion to £42.6 billion.