70: The HS2 Committee considers locus standi challenges
This article was written by Clare Shaw, trainee solicitor at BDB.
Last week the HS2 Committee began its consideration of those petitioners whose ‘locus standi’ has been challenged. As we reported previously, there are 24 petitioners who have had their right to be heard challenged. The Committee stated last week that two of the 24 had chosen not to contest the challenge. One petitioner failed to appear, resulting in a warning from the Committee Chair, Robert Syms MP that the Committee will not look kindly on petitioners who fail to appear on time.
The challenges to HS2 Action Alliance and Stop HS2, heard last week, were largely made on the basis that the organisations did not meet the test for locus standi to petition (this is whether a petitioner’s property or interests are directly and specially affected by the Bill), nor were they representative bodies representing interests or inhabitants injuriously affected by the Bill.
The two organisations argued that the groups’ size and ability to deal with route wide issues, put them in a good position to contribute expertise to, and improve the efficiency of, the process. Both organisations argued that they had petitioned on route wide issues that could be too complex or expensive for their members to pursue on their own. Witnesses called by Stop HS2 agreed, saying that they had left out of their petitions some route wide issues, such as noise and the speed of the line, on the basis that Stop HS2 had included them in its petition.
Both organisations referred to the fact that other representative bodies such as the Ramblers Association and CPRE had not had their locus challenged. Responding for the Government, Timothy Mould QC said it had long been recognised that such organisations should be heard as they represent specific long standing interests, which may be materially affected by the HS2 Bill.
Stop HS2 went further than HS2 Action Alliance in ascribing motive to the challenge made to its locus. Joe Rukin, Campaign Manager, (whose nine-year-old son Alexander has petitioned against the Bill) suggested that it had been singled out for political reasons and proffered his suspicion that the decision had been made to challenge the petition before it had even been deposited. Timothy Mould QC refuted any suggestion that the locus challenges had been brought to stifle legitimate debate.
Defending the challenges made, Timothy Mould QC argued that the two organisations could continue to support petitioners behind the scenes, and did not need locus to do so. Both HS2 Action Alliance and Stop HS2 disagreed, replying that they did not have the financial means to assist each of their members individually with the presentation of their petitions to the Committee.
Other petitioners, heard last week, were challenged on the basis that their petitions did not fall within the scope of the Bill, or the remit of the Committee’s work, for example, petitions focusing on the HS2-HS1 link or Phase 2 of the railway.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The hearings will continue this week on the remaining challenges (with the exception of Dr Eaglen, who will give his submission on 21 July 2014). The Committee has indicated that it intends to announce its decision on each of the challenges heard last week on 16th July.
11 July 2014