Why Camden has to challenge HS2 decision
Camden Labour has decided we must legally challenge the Government’s decision to proceed with HS2. This was one of those decisions that was both straight forward. And very difficult. The latter because going to law costs money. While we’ll spread the costs with other authorities this is coming at a time when we’re facing the biggest cuts, for the longest period we’ve ever faced as a local authority. Decisions to spend more money can’t be taken lightly.
But straight forward, because the impact in Camden is collosal, devastating and ill-considered by Government. Following a disappointing meeting by Justine Greening last week we really were left with nowhere else to go.
In Camden nearly 500 families will be forced from their homes. Currently those people have no idea where or what they will be offered as an alternative. There aren’t even any guarentees on the table that they will be able to stay in Camden never mind in the immediate area. This is a community that has been developed over decades. Familes send their kids to local schools, attend local churches and mosques, work in local jobs. All this will be ripped apart for those people. And at the moment they face nothing other than uncertainty.
There are a number of people who did what Thatcher told them to, and invested in the equity of their council homes by exercising their right to buy. But the right to buy created a largely two tier sale market – one that’s very pronounced in Camden (and probably should be the subject of a whole other blog). This means that the statutory compensation for leaseholders will not replace what they lose. Because there’s simply no way that the current market value of their flats, even with an additional 10%, will buy a brand new flat in the area. The Government is offering nothing to these people. In fact HS2 suggested to one retiree who owns their home that they could use the equity of their current flat to part buy part rent. Seriously. They did. As it stands they will be forced to leave the area altogether.
A large number of small and medium size businesses will either be bulldozed to make way for the new station or fatally undermined by the proposed construction. The street that sparked the nations love of curry, Drummond Street, will see some buildings bulldozed and the remaining restraurants will be cut off from the passing Euston trade for four years by construction of the new station.
Blight in Camden is already happening. On Hampstead Road the old BHS headquarters lies empty and unused with no signs of life. This is despite having current planning permission for owners Derwent London, that would create several hundred jobs and homes, including social rented homes. The uncertainty that HS2 creates over the future of the building means they now can’t justify the development. At Camden Council we have similarly put regeneration work on hold. This in one of the poorest areas of the country.
There are many other reasons why Camden opposes HS2. And the impacts will be felt across the borough. The line heads north through Primrose Hill, Swiss Cottage and Kilburn. Similarly causing delays or changes to our own regeneration work because we don’t know what’s going on. Stretching east the proposal to use a disused North London Line track to link HS2 with HS1 hasn’t been properly surveyed. We think it’s likely that this viaduct that stretches through Camden will need major works. In case you don’t know it, the only points at which this viaduct doesn’t directly abut people’s homes is where it crosses roads.
The level of disruption through construction of all different aspects affecting Camden could snarl up the borough for years. For pedestrians, for cyclists, for drivers. And across large swathes of the borough. What impact will this have on people’s lives and our local economy?
We’re not nimbys. We’re a central London borough that is well used to large scale development. We are thoughtful about what is beneficial to our borough and what isn’t. Just down the road at St Pancras we worked with the developers of HS1 to ensure that the impacts were minimised. Frank Dobson, who also vociferously opposes HS2 campaigned to have Eurostar going from St Pancras.
No, we oppose HS2 because it will devastate our borough.