Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust wins High Court appeal against the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway decision

BBOWT Campaigners and staff at the Courts of Justice
BBOWT Campaigners and staff at the Courts of Justice

BBOWT have challenged the government's decision not to comission a Strategic Environmenal Assesment (SEA), which would ensure that environmental and other sustainability aspects were considered when selecting the route of the new expressway.

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 on February 20.

Highways England proposed three broad routes, or corridors, for the Expressway and Growth Corridor. On September 12, the government announced that they had selected Corridor B to accommodate the Expressway and associated housing (highlighted in blue)

Highways England proposed three broad routes, or corridors, for the Expressway and Growth Corridor. On September 12, the government announced that they had selected Corridor B to accommodate the Expressway and associated housing (highlighted in blue)

The Trust's claim was initially refused by the court, but it was overturned yesterday.

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).

Here's a link to our initial story last year: https://www.bucksherald.co.uk/news/wildlife-trust-launch-legal-challenge-to-the-oxford-to-cambridge-expressway-1-8650446

At the time, BBOWT said: "We believe Highways England and the Department for Transport did not follow due process when selecting the route for the development, and that their failure to do so has put our local wildlife in grave danger."

BBOWT is 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.”