Councillor defends spend against HS2 as costs continue to escalate

The new chair of the district council has defended the rising costs of fighting HS2 as costs creep up over budget and could hit over £150,000.

Northampton County Hall HS2 protest: 
17/03/11
Northampton County Hall HS2 protest: 17/03/11

Warwick District Council and Warwickshire County Council have between them now set aside almost £180,000 to be spent fighting the proposed High Speed rail line through the county.

Action group 51M - made up of affected council’s along the London to Birmingham route - is funding legal challenges to bring the government to account over the plans.

Earlier this year the government was taken to the high court with ten legal challenges, but only one, over consultations on compensation, was upheld by the judge.

Warwick District Council budgeted for £100,000 to be spent within 51M to fight the plans. To date, it has paid out £102,000, with a further £17,000 due to be paid and with a potential further cost of £20,000.

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Warwickshire County Council has also budgeted £30,000 to be spend on judicial reviews and appeals. And these costs may rise if appeals go ahead over the unsuccessful challenges.

But criticism has come in since the costs were approved by the district council’s executive at the amount being spent.

Resident Richard Wallace questioned why the huge sums were not spent elsewhere, such as looking into previously rejected plans for the line to run to Coventry - and potentially bypassing Kenilworth and Burton Green completely.

“Not all residents oppose HS2 and the councils’ wasted funds could have been better spent on working on advocating sensible alternatives such as stronger lobbying for HS2 to serve Coventry,” he said.

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“How much better would it have been if the £100,000 could have been used to support a professional study of such an option rather than some of the more spurious arguments of opponents.”

But Cllr Richard Davies (Con, St John’s) who will this year take up the role as chair of the district council, 
defended the costs as an 
“essential” spend.

“It was in our Conservative election pledge that we would fight HS2 and that’s what we are doing,” he told the KWN.

“So far we have spent in the region of £120,000 through the legal reviews and it is entirely likely that this may rise by another £30,000 as we continue to fight in court. This is exactly what we promised we would do and we have sufficient reserves to fund such battles. I don’t see this as a quixotic combat or a lost cause as the plight of many tax payers whose lives and life savings will be unfairly blighted by HS2 has not been resolved to their, or our, satisfaction. It is our duty to fight for these people through legal means and that’s what we are doing.”

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What was the outcome of the judicial review in December?

- Mr Justice Ouseley ruled the HS2 consultation as unlawful

- But rejected nine major points including to the lawfulness of a 2011 strategy consultation.

- He rejected that the government was required to comply with the environmental assessment and habitats directives.

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- Protestors may now launch appeals over the challenges lost