‘I saw my home knocked down for HS2', says new councillor

Nasrine Djemai tells how she became motivated to stand for election

Thursday, 12th May — By Richard Osley

Nasrine Djemai, centre, alongside Rebecca Filer and Kemi Atolagbe

Nasrine Djemai, centre, was elected in the Haverstock ward alongside Rebecca Filer and Kemi Atolagbe

ONE of the youngest women to ever be elected to the council chamber has told how seeing her flat knocked down for the HS2 rail line had motivated her to get into politics.

Nasrine Djemai is now living in part of the replacement housing built on the Regent’s Park Estate, but spent her teenage years living with uncertainty and disruption caused by the project.

“I remember I was 12 when I first heard about it and I’m 24 now – and there is still years of it ahead,” she said.

“When you are young and you hear your home is going to be knocked down, you worry that you are going to be moved out of your area – you have this lingering anxiety all around you, all through your childhood. I don’t think we will see the real impacts of HS2 on people who live in Camden further into the future, in terms of mental health and things like that.

HS2 digger in Hampstead Road

“I saw people in their 80s and 90s being told they would have to move.”

Her family had lived in the Ainsdale block which was part of the demolitions.

“It was emotional to see my home knocked down. I can never in the future take my children, if I have them, back to the flat where I grew up,” she said.

“I’m thinking of a child who might be 12, like me then, now – maybe in 10 years they will be standing to be a councillor if they are motivated in the same way, because this is still going on.

“We are still on the ­lorry route. In the height of lockdown, my desk was still trembling. They didn’t stop work for long. You only have to get on the top deck of a bus going down Hampstead Road to see what people are still living next to.”

After her studies, she had a council role engaging with residents affected by the HS2 project.

“The promise was that HS2 would be good neighbours, but I don’t think people feel those assurances have always come true,” she added.

Cllr Djemai saw inside the council chamber when she led a residents’ deputation, later deciding to try and become a councillor.

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