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Leaseholders struggling to get compensation like PM's father had

06 November, 2020 — By Tom Foot

JUST how did Stanley Johnson do it?

That’s what residents in three doomed council blocks are wondering after learning they will not get the same support under the HS2 compen­sa­tion scheme which helped the Prime Minister’s father to sell his house.

The Coniston, Cartmel and Langdale blocks, in the Regent’s Park estate, have been classed as “virtually uninhabitable” by the council due to noisy construction works at the nearby HS2 site.

Around 130 tenant households are being helped to move out into other council homes – but there is no extra support for 45 leaseholders in the blocks.

Just four homeowners in Camden are believed to have managed to success­fully apply to HS2’s “Need to Sell” compensa­tion scheme which requires each applicant to prove a “compelling” reason to move.

Stanley Johnson, a former star of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, was one of them – selling his home in Park Village East to the government for £4.4m in March 2016, since when the massive house has sat empty.

Karen McDonald, a leaseholder in Coniston, said: “After carefully reading all of what was required, I gave up pursuing the scheme as I knew my application would just be rejected. HS2 has a ridiculous criteria to meet and so many hurdles to jump, I’m surprised anyone qualifies for the scheme – including Stanley Johnson.”

She added: “I have lived a happy life here in Coniston for over 30 years, but sadly I now need to escape from this terrible place I used to call home. Surely HS2 have a duty of care?”

The New Journal reported on the impact of the Euston works on residents in the three blocks during the first coronavirus lockdown. We saw kitchen tables shaking from the digging, and schoolchildren complained of breathing problems. A petition was launched by residents desperately calling for the blocks to be decanted.

Senior councillors had hoped to secure a £129m rescue package from HS2 that would have bought out the leaseholders too. However, officials at HS2 Ltd and the Depart­ment for Transport rejected the Town Hall’s plan. Cabinet councillors agreed instead to award tenants 630 housing points so they would lead the waiting list for switching council homes.

For several years Mr Johnson was one of the most high-profile and outspoken critics of the HS2 railway, speaking at public debates and appearing regularly in the New Journal.

In 2014, he said: “I don’t for a moment want to give the impression that the residents of Park Village East deserve more consideration than other poor benighted Camden residents. “Yet in almost all instances the compensation proposed is inadequate or, as in our case, non-existent. What fascinates me is how the government can imagine that its proposals as regards compensation are fair and proper?”

Stanley Johnson enjoying himself in the jungle and, below, during an after dinner speech for local Tories in Hampstead

Mr Johnson’s former next-door neighbour, Nick Cams, was unable to sell up – along with several other residents in Park Village East – despite trying three times. In December 2016, a House of Lords HS2 select committee made a “strong recommendation” that owner-occupiers in Camden should have the “right to require the government to acquire the property at the unblighted price” and get a 10 per cent cash bonus. Tenants left stuck next to the construction site should receive a lump sum of £10,000, the committee recommended.

HS2 diggers in front of the estate

A HS2 spokeswoman said it was still in talks with the council about compensation, adding: “HS2 and the Department for Transport have been working closely with Camden Council, and will continue to work together to try and find solutions that address the issues faced by residents affected by the construc­tion works at Euston.

“We have a number of measures in place to minimise disruption for residents near our construction sites, including fitting noise insulation in homes. We have an undertaking and assurance for this to be completed before noisy works can begin, which is triggered by works meeting a noise threshold. In order to ensure value for the taxpayer, applicants to the ‘Need to Sell’ scheme need to show that they have a compelling need to sell their property, and once bought, the vast majority of lettable properties are rented out and will be sold after the first trains are running.”

Mr Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.

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