BFARe has been looking into whether judicial review could be used to force EWRCo to reconsider their choice of Route E. We have now consulted our barrister, who is experienced in major infrastructure projects like this one. Whilst the unexplained discrepancies in route costs between 2019 and 2020 could be of legal concern, now is not the time to raise a legal challenge. Our barrister believes there may be further opportunities for a judicial review once the route alignment is published.
In the mean time, to save time and costs, it is to everyone’s benefit – including Bedford Borough Council, East West Rail and the citizens of Bedford Borough – that the preferred Northern Route (“Route E”) through and out of Bedford, should be reconsidered now, rather than at a later date.
Our barrister has advised us that judicial review can only be used to test the legality of a decision (did EWRCo comply with the law?). Just because we obviously disagree with the decision itself doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal. Apart from possibly the unexplained discrepancies in route costs between 2019 and 2020 (when Route E became the second cheapest after being by far the most expensive), he does not see at the moment any basis for judicial review on any other ground.
The other big difficulty is that judicial reviews have to be started “expeditiously” from the date of the decision complained about (i.e. the Route E announcement in January 2020), and certainly within 3 months. That means we are out of time to challenge that decision in the Courts. BFARe didn’t exist until early this year, and much of the information to show there were irregularities in the route costs – which would be needed as evidence to support a legal challenge – is only now being found. Had we existed as a group fifteen months ago, and had the information that we now have, it might well have been a different story.
However, there could be further opportunities for challenge when a decision on the actual route alignment is published late this year/early next. And later, when the Development Consent Order application goes before the Planning Inspectorate. At this time, all the failures in the process can be forcefully exposed.
In the meantime, the campaign against Route E and the alignments through town and north Bedfordshire continues apace. BFARe urges everyone to respond to the EWRCo’s consultation (closing on 9th June, 2021). Please let your parish council know your views, lobby your Borough Councillor before the Council debate on EWR on 2nd June. And please contact your MP and write to the Transport Minister.
Now is not the time to sit back, we must continue to press on and try to obtain information that can be used in our potential Judicial Review after the alignment announcements.
Outside of the process we must continue to build upon our work with the Minister to demonstrate that EWRCo’s plans are flawed in selecting Route E.
BFARe would also like to thank the seven parish councils along the Bedfordshire section of Route E which have given generous financial support towards engaging the barrister on this important issue. Also a big thank-you to the BFARE community at large that is working so hard to ferret out the truth of the illogical and poorly thought-through Route E choice, and to canvass public and member assistance.