CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Protest camp aims to save ancient trees from HS2 axe

Homeless people given treetop bedding in Euston Square Gardens as demo continues

04 September, 2020 — By Tom Foot

One of the ‘sky palaces’ being used by demonstrators

PROTESTERS are living in tree houses built by the campaign group HS2 Rebellion in a new demonstration against the railway project.

A Tree Protection Camp has been set up in Euston Square Gardens by the group which says it is fighting “ecological destruction” caused by the £106 billion railway project. Former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams was among the visitors to the camp on Tuesday.

Dr Larch Maxey, one of the organisers, said: “Lots of people on the site are rough sleepers. We have a 19-year-old who was living on church steps in Camden Town. Now he’s living in the treetops. We have spare tents, spare bedding, spare food. The homeless are welcome, they are part of the community. They are learning how to climb.”

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams visited the camp this week

He added: “We’ve got three ‘sky palaces’, which are cargo nets fixed with joists and a frame. Three of those can accommodate up to 10 people. We’ve got single cargo nets and hammocks. The plan is to stop HS2 and save the trees, communities and homes.”

Dr Maxey has already helped occupy several green spaces threatened by HS2 outside of London, including at Denham and Colne Valley, where camps have been forcibly removed.

He warned there was a “high probability of societal collapse” and the “end of civilisation” caused by “runaway climate change”, adding: “We want a Citizen’s Assembly on HS2. We want decisions based on evidence and science, not just an elite educated in Eton. HS2 is against democracy, the interests of every ordinary person and is devastating the environment.”


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It is understood Euston Square Gardens’ landowner – Camden Council – has not yet objected to the camp, which yesterday (Wednesday) was in place for its sixth day. Campaigners have donated tents, tarpaulins, food and other equipment to the camp. XR said the railway had seen families “coerced from their homes” and led to “businesses losing premises”.

Camden is one of the areas worst hit by the controversial railway project, a faster link to Birmingham. The works have already seen more than 200 homes and several cherished businesses around Euston station demolished. A burial ground has been dug up and skeletons exhumed.

The XR tree houses were built as part of a wider protest against the entire HS2 project. Ancient woodlands are being bulldozed to make way for train tracks in the countryside.

In Euston, dozens of trees have already been axed as the land is levelled ahead of the construction of a new railway terminus, to the west of the station. The land around Euston, which has been compulsory purchased by the Department for Transport, is valued at around £6billion and will eventually be sold off to investors.

Members of HS2 Rebellion – a broad alliance of XR, Stop HS2 and other environmental groups – set up the camp on Friday with art and drumming workshops and at a “Woodland Critters Picnic” in the gardens on Friday.

Sarah Reel, 25, of HS2 Rebellion, added: “The government should scrap HS2 immediately and instead invest in the NHS, improve existing rail networks and local infrastructure, and adapt to the new reality we face in this COVID-19 pandemic and Climate and Ecological Emergency.”

HS2 has faced protests about its plans to cut down trees in Adelaide Road in recent weeks.

A HS2 spokesperson said: “We are committed to replacing any trees in Camden as close to the location of any removed tree and have already successfully planted trees in the area. In addition, we are working with local groups to re-use timber from removed trees where possible. HS2’s low-carbon railway will help in the fight against climate change by getting people out of the cars and reduce the need for domestic air travel.”


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