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Injunction granted to block protests along entire planned HS2 route

A High Court judge has granted an injunction to block protests against HS2 (PA)
A High Court judge has granted an injunction to block protests against HS2 (PA)

An injunction designed to block activists from carrying out “disruptive protests” on land along the entire route of the planned HS2 rail link has been granted by a High Court judge.

The line’s developers, High Speed Two Limited, backed by the Secretary of State for Transport, sought the “anticipatory” injunction to protect construction works along the first phase of the route from London to the West Midlands.

Several protesters argued at a hearing in May that an injunction would obstruct “peaceful protest against illegal tree-felling and ‘wildlife crimes’”.

HS2 project
Environmental activists from Stop HS2 North and HS2 Rebellion protesting outside the Curzon Street Station site in Birmingham (PA)

But in a ruling on Tuesday, Mr Justice Julian Knowles granted the injunction in the terms sought against nearly 60 named defendants as well as ‘persons unknown’.

The order made prevents anyone from entering or remaining on HS2 land, deliberately obstructing or interfering with vehicles, equipment or people accessing the land, and interfering with any fence or gate at the perimeter.

It does not prevent anyone from accessing public rights of way or private rights on the land.

The judge said the “extensive injunction” was necessary given the evidence that protesters intended to continue their protests.

He said: “I have anxiously considered the geographical extent of the injunction along the whole of the HS2 route, and whether it should be more limited.

“I have concluded, however, given the plain evidence of the protesters’ intentions to continue to protest and disrupt without limit – ‘let’s keep f****** up HS2’s day and causing as much disruption and cost as possible. Coming to land near you’ – such an extensive injunction is appropriate.

“The risks are real and imminent for the reasons I have already given.

“I accept that the claimants (HS2 and the Secretary of State for Transport) have shown that the direct action protests are ongoing and simply move from one location to another, and that the protesters have been and will continue to cause maximum disruption across a large geographical extent.

“As the claimants put it, once a particular protest ‘hub’ on one part of HS2 land is moved on, the same individuals will invariably seek to set up a new hub from which to launch their protests elsewhere on HS2 land.

“The HS2 land is an area of sufficient size that it is not practicable to police the whole area with security personnel or to fence it, or make it otherwise inaccessible.”

More than a dozen people opposed to the injunction made submissions to the court at a hearing in Birmingham in May.

Victoria Lindsell told the judge considering the application: “Every second that this work continues they are hammering another nail in the coffin of the climate crisis.

“Quite simply we should be looking after and nurturing every inch of land in this country.

“I am asking you and the prosecution to really look into your hearts. Construction projects such as this are adding to the climate crisis.

“These people and millions of others have every right to protest. This (HS2) is just a money-making project. We don’t need another rail line.”

HS2
The Wendover Active Resistance camp in Buckinghamshire (Handout/PA)

A number of protests have taken place along the proposed rail route, including the Wendover Active Resistance (War) camp in Buckinghamshire which lasted for more than a month in October and November last year, and a network of tunnels under Euston station which were occupied by activists for a month in January and February last year.

An HS2 spokesperson said: “HS2 Ltd welcomes this judgment and its approval of the route-wide injunction.

“As Mr Justice Knowles makes clear, this injunction will not, and is not intended to, stop legitimate protest.

“Instead, we hope the injunction will prevent the violence, intimidation, and criminal damage these protests have frequently caused, harming the HS2 project and those working on it, and costing the UK taxpayer millions of pounds.

“The construction of HS2 is playing a vital role in Britain’s economic recovery from the pandemic, with almost 28,000 people already working on the project and tens of thousands of additional jobs supported through our supply chain.

“We urge everyone who cares about our natural environment to support a project that is providing work across the UK today, and in the future will get people out of cars, off planes and on to zero-carbon rail travel.”