HS2 route-wide injunction
On 20 September 2022 a High Court Judge, Mr Justice Knowles, sitting at Birmingham’s Civil Justice Centre, granted HS2 Limited an extensive injunction along the length of the high-speed line from London to Crewe to help tackle unlawful protests.
The order makes going onto HS2 land without permission or disrupting work a potential contempt of court – the offence of ignoring a judge’s ruling. The order covers a range of scenarios including people “interfering with” access to the land or “delaying or hindering” any HS2 work. Breaking the injunction would be a contempt of court which could lead to a fine, imprisonment or both. The order can be viewed at Orders-Basic_Order.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk) and details of the proceedings can be viewed at HS2 route-wide injunction proceedings - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Protests against the railway have cost HS2 an estimated £122 million nationally and an HS2 spokesperson said that the injunction was not intended to stop legitimate protest saying “instead, we hope the injunction will prevent the violence, intimidation, and criminal damage these protests have frequently caused, harming the HS2 project and those working on it, and costing the UK taxpayer millions of pounds.”
There have been a number of concerns about people going about legitimate business or pastimes mistakenly breaking the injunction and committing a criminal offence. Examples include walkers or ramblers walking across a footpath which crosses HS2 land, footpath maintenance volunteers straying off the path to cut back hedgerows, organisations accessing the land for monitoring purposes such as the Chiltern Conservation Board and the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust and even Buckinghamshire Council Officers going about their statutory business.
Actions taken by Buckinghamshire Council
Buckinghamshire Council has taken a number of actions to ensure that the route-wide injunction does not prevent people legitimately accessing or crossing HS2 land either for leisure or business purposes.
The Council sought legal advice on the implications of the route-wide injunction. It indicated
that it should not affect the rights of the public using Public Rights of Way over HS2 land, making use of private rights of access over HS2 land or any person holding a freehold interest in land over which HS2 Ltd has taken temporary possession.
We have also sought King’s Counsel advice on the implications of the injunction. The advice was that it is very unlikely that the injunction will affect the lawful activities of groups, such as the Chilterns Conservation Board continuing to undertake reasonable monitoring activities or members of the public, ramblers etc. from walking across HS2 land. It is very unlikely that the injunction will have implications for Buckinghamshire Council exercising its statutory powers and is only likely to affect the activities of protestors of HS2. King’s Counsel does not consider it necessary for the Council to apply to the Court for a variation of the order.
We have liaised with senior members of HS2 Ltd regarding this route-wide injunction and our concerns about it. HS2 Ltd responded that the injunction is aimed at unlawful protestors not law-abiding members of the public and that their staff would take a common-sense approach. HS2 Ltd added some additional information to their webpage to allay concerns and spell out what the injunction does and does not do. The link to the webpage is: HS2 route-wide injunction - HS2
The Court has instructed HS2 Ltd to display the documents relating to the injunction in four libraries along the route (Aylesbury, Great Missenden, Wendover and Chalfont St Giles.) Buckinghamshire Council has worked with HS2 Ltd to ensure that these documents are available to the public to view and have added a caveat that:
“These documents relate to the route-wide injunction that has been granted to HS2 Ltd by the court. This information has been deliberately placed at this library to facilitate ease of access by the public, by request of the court. Buckinghamshire Council does not endorse this injunction.”
Steven Broadbent, Cabinet Member for Transport
Peter Martin, Deputy Cabinet Member for Transport (HS2/EWR)