Golf club may block £16 billion rail link

Posted: 11th December 2012

A golf club's complaints of injustice could become the crucial nail in the coffin of the government's £16 billion plans to forge a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham. Aylesbury Golf Club argues that basic rules of fairness were violated when it was not informed that the proposed route had been ‘tweaked’ to take it through the middle of its course.

Golf courseThe club, along with a consortium of local authorities and other groups opposed to the controversial ‘HS2’ rail link, are asking the High Court to put the plans back to square one. They argue that environmental and habitat protection laws were side-stepped and that a consultation process leading up to adoption of the proposals by the Department of Transport in February 2012 was fundamentally flawed.

The first phase of the project is planned to slash journey times, with trains travelling up to 400km/h between London and Britain's second city by 2026, at a cost of £16 billion. A second phase would then extend the line to Manchester and Leeds and raise the total cost to £34 billion.

Campaigners say more than 172,000 homes within a kilometre of the line will be seriously affected by noise and other disturbance and that the existence of the plans itself will cause ‘planning blight’ that will paralyse the property market along the route for the next 15 years.

Lawyers representing the golf club argue that the original route plan, announced in 2009, would have been ‘seriously inconvenient’ for players. But, when the route was modified the following year - to take it up to 100 metres further away from grade one listed mansion, Hartwell House - the result was ‘catastrophic’ for the club.

Arguing that the procedure followed was ‘simply unfair and contrary to natural justice’, the club argues that there was ‘no meaningful consultation’ before the route amendment was adopted and that it was unaware of the significance of the change until the consultation process opened in 2011.

‘The adverse effect of the realigned route is catastrophic. Because of the route the line now takes, there will be fewer than nine playable holes, which is not viable for a respectable golf club. The realignment made the difference between an adverse effect on the golf course and a destroyed golf course. The new line is disastrous as opposed to being seriously inconvenient’, said the club’s barrister.

The challenge is being contested by the Department of Transport and the court is expected to reserve its decision until a later date.