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High Court refuses council judicial review bid over routeing of lorries to HS2 construction sites

A judicial review application by Buckinghamshire Council contesting a decision by the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities to approve lorry routes for the construction of High Speed 2 has been refused by the High Court.

The local authority issued judicial review proceedings in November 2021 challenging the decision to allow appeals from HS2 Limited (HS2L) to use lorry routes that were initially refused by the council.

The limited company behind the railway made eight requests to Buckinghamshire Council for approval of the arrangements for eight routes for Large Goods Vehicles (LGVs) to and from construction sites for the HS2 project. The council did not determine seven of the requests because it said that information necessary for their determination had not been provided by HS2L.

HS2L appealed against the non-determination to the Secretaries of State of the seven sites generating three appeals.

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The Secretaries of State, through Planning Inspectors, allowed the appeals. Buckinghamshire then made a judicial review application challenging the three appeals decisions of the Secretaries of State.

There were three common grounds of challenge relating to the separate planning decisions. The first concerned the information which has to be provided to the local authority for the request for approval to be valid, and how a dispute about the necessity for the information sought affects appeal rights to the Secretaries of State. This gives rise to a jurisdictional issue, the council argued.

The second common ground of challenge raised questions as to the interpretation of paragraph 6 of Schedule 17 of the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Act 2017, and what scope it gives to the local authority to seek to modify the routes proposed by conditions.

Schedule 17 paragraph 1 provides that the requirements in paragraphs 2-12 are "conditions of the planning permission" and paragraph 6 contains the "Condition relating to road transport".

The council claimed that the decisions on the appeals took an overly narrow view of paragraph 6.

Buckinghamshire also claimed that an important aspect of cumulative impact was ignored.

In Buckinghamshire Council v Secretary of State for Transport Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities [2022] EWHC 1923 Mr Justice Ouseley refused all three grounds of challenge, and the judicial review application failed.

The council said it is not planning to appeal the decision.

Cllr Steven Broadbent, Cabinet Member for Transport at Buckinghamshire, said: "We are bitterly disappointed with the result but the decision to go ahead and take these appeals to the High Court was always the right thing to do for our residents and communities. Following robust counsel advice, we believe we had strong and very valid reasons to challenge the decisions of the Inspectors in allowing lorry routes to be used which will have an enormous and detrimental impact on our local roads."

He added: "We and other local authorities are already limited in our overall influence and control on much of the HS2 scheme and last week's High Court decision puts a further financial burden on us to provide more and more evidence when challenging anything HS2 does in our area. This is so unjust when our residents are already covering the cost of a huge infrastructure project whose construction is causing disruption to a wide swath of Buckinghamshire."

Adam Carey

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