‘HS2 promises to residents are not worth the paper they’re printed on’
Council loses patience over noisy works
Thursday, 26th November 2020 — By Tom Foot
AGREEMENTS reached in Parliament to protect residents from the High Speed 2 project have “failed”, according to a cross party-backed motion by Camden Council.
Councillors lashed out on Monday night at HS2 Ltd, accusing the government-formed company of “manipulation” and breaking promises to residents on the Regent’s Park estate and Euston who feel “imprisoned” in their homes as the noise and dust of the construction site surrounds them.
The motion signals a new no-nonsense approach from the council that has for five years enjoyed a warmer relationship with the £106bn scheme, a new railway link between Euston and Birmingham, and later cities in the north that will take two decades to build.
The Town Hall in 2015 dropped its outright opposition after HS2 Ltd agreed to sign a list of more than 100 “assurances” that residents would be protected from the extreme noise and pollution.
Window insulation and air ventilation units were supposed to be installed in homes of hundreds of residents left living within a few yards of the construction sites.
But the meeting heard that the “bare minimum” had not been done and the council now considers its list of “assurances” not worth the paper they were written on.
Labour councillor Heather Johnson said: “We raised the problem during the parliamentary process and secured assurances from HS2. That should have protected residents, but is clearly failing. Residents tell us they experience noise, movement and vibrations. It is very frightening for them, they are imprisoned within their homes.”
She added: “Night-time workers are facing sleepless days. All residents are distressed by the unacceptable levels of vermin being disturbed by the works.”
The furious response follows the sudden collapse of negotiations for a £130m package to fund new housing for around 175 for people living in the Langdale, Cartmel and Coniston blocks, and in Coburg Street, Euston. Instead, the council has come up with a “voluntary rehousing scheme” plan that aims to give tenants a chance to leave the blocks by putting them at the top of the waiting list.
Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper described HS2 as “Frankenstein’s monster… it’s now its own beast, run amok”, adding: “Camden dropped its opposition to HS2 in 2015 in exchange for 100 assurances. If our faith in democracy is supposed to be upheld, those assurances should be upheld.”
He added that the assurances were “not legally enforceable” leaving the council with “no power” to pursue HS2 for breaches through the courts.
Liberal Democrat councillor Tom Simon said: “If you cannot sleep in your own home at night, that seems to me the most basic level of what we call a home. The callousness and recklessness of the way HS2 has gone about the work in this area … it is a damning indictment on the organisation.”
And Green councillor Sian Berry said: “It’s down to us, as councillors, to push for promises to be kept. We have to stand up to this company.”
HS2 has denied they have retreated on promises and say they have an open complaints system for residents. A statement said: “We have a number of measures in place to minimise disruption for residents near our construction sites. We have an undertaking and assurance for this to be completed before noisy works can begin.”