23 January 2014
Yesterday, the Supreme Court dismissed a challenge brought against HS2; a challenge concerning the government’s consideration of the environmental impact of the rail project. Multiple objectors, including the HS2 Action Alliance and the local councils of areas that stand to be affected, made the legal challenge. Whilst their claims were rejected, I think it’s commendable that they’re fighting to make the government realise that they will be held accountable by the public.
What I think this dismissal highlights, however, is a widening gap between the government and the Great British public. Is it fair to say that there is a growing sense of “them” and “us” in the country? I’m not sure what the government hopes to achieve by continuously ignoring public opinion but they’ve pushed ahead with HS2 despite the majority of people not wanting it.
In polls carried out by organisations such as YouGov and our own BusinessCloud site, there are more people against HS2 than there are in favour, yet it’s still going ahead. Isn’t it better to canvas the opinion of the public before charging into a decision that will affect thousands, as well as the environment, whilst spending around £50bn in the process?
Even the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which was once in favour of HS2, is now wavering. The chief executive of the organisation recently blogged that it was, “increasingly hard to see HS2 as any sort of green project” and voiced his concerns about whether the government actually believes (or even cares) that the benefits will outweigh the potential damage.
Whilst I understand the benefits HS2 could bring – and believe me, I’d be set to profit from it as our house is right next to part of the proposed route – I don’t think they are worth the cost, which involves not only a huge amount of money that other things, like our education system and hospitals, desperately need, but also a cost in terms of risk to the environment and local communities.
What do you think? Is it a cost worth paying and a risk worth taking? Should the government do more to canvas our opinions before making important decisions?