NEW Forest TV presenter Chris Packham is pressing ahead amid the coronavirus crisis with his legal challenge to try to block construction of the HS2 rail project on environmental grounds.
Despite the ongoing epidemic Mr Packham, who has a home near Marchwood, has filed papers at the High Court for an urgent injunction to halt clearance and building work.
Mr Packham said: “We are in a time of grave national and international crisis and our government is under considerable pressure. I wholly sympathise with that and respect the need to support their urgent priorities.”
But he added: “Beyond this critical and worrying period lies another – our species’ continued tenure on planet earth.
“To survive beyond coronavirus we will need a healthy and sustainable environment so we must continue to ensure that is what we will inherit. HS2 is wholly incompatible with this longer-term, and fundamentally necessary, aim.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed in February that HS2 would go ahead, with high-speed train routes linking London to cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
The decision followed publication of the Oakervee review, which warned of “serious consequences” for UK industry and infrastructure if it was cancelled.
However, Mr Packham warned that not only will the project destroy swathes of precious habitat, but that the Oakervee report was unreliable as it failed to take into account issues such as the wider impact on climate change, water supplies, rights of way, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
He has applied to the High Court for permission for judicial review of the scheme. Mr Packham is being represented by law firm Leigh Day, and a crowdfunding effort online has so far received pledged worth nearly £112,000.
Solicitor Carol Day said: “While the government is quite rightly currently prioritising the impact of the coronavirus, we have issued this case on behalf of our client in order to ensure his case can be properly considered by the High Court in due course.
“Mr Packham believes that the government’s decision to press on with the HS2 project in February was based on a process that was not independent or impartial, and which failed to properly consider environmental impacts.”
HS2 says the project will bring over £92bn worth of benefits to the UK and take cars off the roads.
It is forecast ultimately to carry over 300,000 passengers a day – around 100 million a year – as well as enabling the creation of 500,000 jobs and nearly 90,000 new homes.
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