I know I have a number of readers with strong views on HS2 so this  interesting article on its impact on the judicial review as a tactical device in the debate over public policy will be of interest – to me it represents an interesting aspect of the broader debate arising from the initiative. The article tells us:

It looks like it’s all systems go for HS2. The recent ruling on the high-speed rail from London to Birmingham and Manchester to Leeds gave the green light to the project. The government won nine out of the 10 points being challenged by various local authorities and action groups. It fell down on one area and has taken it on the chin agreeing to re-run its compensation consultation process.

There may still be appeals, but the government will no doubt see the outcome of this case as a step forward in its aim of reducing the number of judicial reviews in which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by judiciary.

Last year David Cameron set out the government view that judicial reviews are a barrier to economic growth and there was a need to reduce excessive regulation. He said that some challenges brought were completely pointless. Many objected to proposed changes, calling them an attempt to restrict an important area of administrative law hastily and without proper thought.

Judicial reviews call government decision making to account, so many will be sceptical as to whether this is a welcome change. The big questions are about whether these changes are as radical as they seem, and what they will actually achieve.

It is proposed that there be a reduction in the time limit for bringing a claim relating to procurement or planning. On the face of it this would stifle claims. But in reality the shorter timescales are limited to two distinct areas where most challenges are brought under specific legislation by well-informed participants, so time is not a crucial factor. To avoid appeal cases proliferating and speed up the claim process it is perhaps better to have clarity – after all you will know if you have a legal claim and can then muster support quickly.


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