Chris Packham loses legal bid to prevent work on ancient woodlands

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Chris Packham has lost a High Court bid to prevent work on ancient woodlands as part of the HS2 project.

The TV presenter was seeking an emergency injunction to stop works that he claimed would cause destruction or “irreversible and irreparable loss” to such sites.

Packham applied for the order as part of an attempt to bring a legal challenge over the Government’s decision to give the green light to HS2.

But at a High Court hearing on Friday, two senior judges refused Packham permission to bring a claim against the Government’s decision and did not grant the injunction.

Announcing the court’s decision, Lord Justice Coulson said: “This application has no realistic prospect of success, so we do not grant permission to bring judicial review proceedings.”

He also said that, even if the court had thought the application had a realistic chance of success, they “would not have favoured granting the injunction”.

HS2 project
An artist’s impression of HS2 (HS2/PA)

The injunction focused on preventing “clearance works” at ancient woodlands, which Packham alleged would cause damage and destruction to the sites, as well as disturb species of animals protected under EU law, as well as nesting and breeding sites and resting places.

David Wolfe QC, representing Packham, told the court that the ancient woodlands are “hundreds of years old” and are “simply irreplaceable.”

He added that there was concern about the “irreplaceable damage” that could be done to these sites and that the “balance is in favour of pressing the pause button while the issues are considered”.

The Government argued that Packham’s legal challenge did not have a real prospect of success and should not be allowed to proceed.

HS2 is a new high-speed rail network that, when completed, should connect London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, along with other points in the country.

Lord Justice Coulson said the court would give full reasons for its decision in a written ruling at a later date.

Packham said: “The High Court’s decision today is hugely disappointing.

“Not just for me – but for the future of the natural world.

“I had so hoped that we could go into this weekend safe in the knowledge that our precious ancient trees and all the life they support would still be there on Monday.

“But as a result of this decision some of the most beautiful organisms we have living in the UK will be gone forever as HS2 Ltd moves in with its chainsaws to hack into our ancient trees.

“As the ecological and climate crisis deepens, our future depends on what we do today.

“Together we will battle on.

“This might be David against Goliath but I am not giving up after just one slingshot.

“We are considering an appeal.

“That decision will be made on Monday when the judges publish their reasons.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are pleased with today’s verdict.

“While our current priority is combating the spread of coronavirus, we must continue our work to level up the country.

“HS2 will be crucial to that ambition, boosting capacity and connectivity across our rail network.”

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