Campaigners against the link road, namely Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe (TSLM) have requested leave for a Judicial Review to be held challenging the decision by the Secretary of State to grant approval to the Heysham to M6 Link Road project.
TSLM have asked for the challenge to be heard in the High Court. A judge, either in isolation or during a brief hearing, will decide whether there is any merit in the grounds of objections and only if the judge thinks a case is "arguable" will it progress to a full hearing at the High Court. The Treasury Solicitor (acting on behalf of the Secretary of State) and the county council can submit reasons why leave should not be granted.
The grounds for challenge can only be about whether the correct legal process has been followed and not about the merits of the scheme. TSLM have submitted 5 grounds, briefly summarised below:
1. The proposal is not a 'nationally significant infrastructure project' (NSIP) and should have not progressed through the national Infrastructure Planning Commission process.
2. The consultation carried out was flawed as it didn't allow for the project to be objected to and for alternatives to be considered.
3. The Secretary of State relied on National Policy Statements for Ports and Nuclear Power to support the proposal which they in fact do not.
4. An alternative route/s had been dismissed without a full feasibility assessment.
5. The proposals will harm bats and otters which have not been fully considered.
The county council is very disappointed that objectors to the link road have asked for a Judicial Review as this will increase the costs of the scheme and have an impact on the construction start date.
A similar challenge was lodged in 2008, against the grant of planning permission, which was fully dismissed. The High Court judge found that there was no substance in any of the grounds of challenge and was critical of the action of the campaigners.
Whilst the Judicial Review is against the decision of the Secretary of State for Transport and not the county council, the county council is confident that the legal challenge will be dismissed and will work to play an active part in accelerating the proceedings and defending the scheme.