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Protestors oppose route-wide HS2 injunction plan targeting ‘persons unknown’

A white elephant created by protestors outside Birmingham Civil Justice Centre during a High Court injunction hearing.
A white elephant created by protestors outside Birmingham Civil Justice Centre during a High Court injunction hearing.

Environmental activists opposed to the HS2 rail link have told a court a route-wide injunction being sought against “persons unknown” could prevent peaceful protest against illegal tree-felling and “wildlife crimes”.

High Speed Two Limited, backed by the Secretary of State for Transport, is seeking an “anticipatory” injunction to protect building works along the rail route from protestors.

A High Court judge sitting at Birmingham’s Civil Justice Centre heard on Thursday that HS2 believes the injunction is a necessary to deal with “a real and imminent risk of continued unlawfulness.”

The injunction is being sought against “persons unknown entering or remaining” without consent on HS2 land with the effect of damaging, delaying or hindering the project’s agents, servants, contractors, sub-contractors and employees.

HS2 Protest
Protestors opposed to the building of HS2 outside court. (Matthew Cooper/PA)

HS2 also wants to be given powers to prevent persons unknown from obstructing access to its land and interfering with locks and gates.

Those opposing the application for an injunction have claimed it would prevent lawful protest and could restrict rights of way.

More than a dozen people opposed to the injunction made submissions to the court on Thursday.

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.”

Campaigner Liam Rodgers, from Nottingham, told the court he began to oppose HS2 because of its impact on a woodland memorial planted by bereaved parents in Buckinghamshire.

Mr Rodgers said: “The injunction being sought be HS2 does not allow for my rights.

“I object on the simple grounds that nuisance causing and ‘anticipatory’ actions are not sufficient to bar me from peacefully and non-violently protesting against unlawful tree-felling.

“Persons unknown could be held to be in breach of the final order because their peaceful presence is to potentially stop a wildlife crime.”

At the start of the court hearing, only two protestors were admitted to the courtroom staging the proceedings – with others accommodated in a video-link room.

Caren Wildin, from Leicester, told the court: “We are in a climate emergency and there is a total lack of urgency and honesty from people in power.

“My real deep concern is that the rolling cast of business people, of politicians and indeed the judiciary is responsible for a lack of clarity and, I would argue, abuse of power.

“It was only because we exercised our rights to protest that managed to get in here today.”

She added that it was was “abhorrent” that HS2 had “named and bullied” specific protestors in court documents.

HS2 project
Construction work is under way to build the high-speed line from London to Birmingham. (Aaron Chown/PA)

Other protestors accused HS2 of wasting tax-payers’ money by even bringing the application for an injunction, while other questioned why they had been named by the firm.

Richard Kimblin QC, for HS2, told the court: “We concede that the order is extensive.

“The situation now is that HS2 does need the required injunction.

“It’s very clear from the evidence (presented to the court) that we have seen that – absent the required injunction – HS2 will be coming back to court serially in respect of each next focus of direct action.”

Mr Kimblin said nothing in the injunction being sought would prevent anyone from exercising their rights of way.

During the protestors’ submissions, trial judge Mr Justice Julian Knowles told them: “I do recognise and genuinely appreciate the strength of feeling.

“I am not going to give a judgment tomorrow. I hope it goes without saying that I recognise the passion and belief by which I have been addressed on the defendants’ side.”

The hearing continues on Friday.