NEWS: BBOWT Response to Oral Hearing at High Court
The High Court has accepted Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust’s (BBOWT) claim against the government regarding the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway at an oral hearing at the High Court today.
After having been refused permission in January to bring a claim against the government, the charity applied to the court to revisit their decision at today’s hearing, and they are delighted that the original decision has been overturned.
In November 2018, BBOWT issued a claim in the High Court, challenging the government’s failure to commission a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) as part of the process of selecting a ‘Growth Corridor’ (within which the Expressway and associated housing will be built).
BBOWT is therefore arguing that the government has failed to assess the environmental impact of its plans, before choosing the corridor of land within which the Expressway and related housing will be built.
In response to the High Court decision, Matthew Stanton, Head of Planning, Policy and Advocacy, at Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, said:
“We are so pleased with today’s decision surrounding the government’s proposed corridor for the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway. We were forced to bring legal proceedings because the government has completely ignored European law, which requires a Strategic Environmental Assessment for schemes that impact on the environment such as this.
“Today shows us that the government has a case to answer and we look forward to fighting for wildlife at the full hearing.
“We will continue to scrutinise the government’s future consultations, defend wildlife in the planning process, and make sure that the potential impact of this concrete corridor is fully assessed and made public.
“The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway could be a disaster for wildlife, and future generations may not forgive us.”
Tom Short, solicitor for BBOWT, said:
“The court has agreed with our client that there is an arguable case to be heard and we look forward to a substantive hearing of the important issues raised. BBOWT believes that the Government has failed to properly consider at an early stage the environmental consequences of a major infrastructure project.
“Although a public consultation is due to take place, the Government has missed a key opportunity to listen to the public and environmental organisations and ensure that their concerns are taken into account early in the decision-making process. By ignoring concerns and refusing to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment key stakeholders and members of the public have been alienated from the process.”
Notes for editors:
At the end of October 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave his support for the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendation to build up to one million new homes in the vicinity of the Expressway. This could see the number of homes across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes nearly double.
We have the support of The Wildlife Trusts nationally, and witness statements backing our case have been supplied by RSPB, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Plantlife and Horton cum Studley Expressway Group. We also have the support of the River Thame Conservation Trust and The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, and some parish councils located within the areas that are in danger of being affected by the development.
BBOWT is calling for a legal commitment in the forthcoming Environment Act to the production of Nature Recovery Network maps that require decision makers to work within environmental limits and ensures we pay back the damage of the past by restoring our ecosystems.