The independent London newspaper

HS2 is showing contempt for the people of our borough

08 March, 2019

A group of disabled residents who regularly meet up at Pinner Cafe in Chalton Street

THE outrage in Somers Town about the latest HS2 imposition will strike a familiar chord with residents living on the west side of Euston Station.

Drummond Street, Cardington Street and Hampstead Road have already been ripped up and transformed into a noisy and polluted construction desert.

Hundreds of residents have been exiled from their homes, packed like sardines into new-build blocks on the already densely built-up Regent’s Park estate.

Thriving businesses have been forced to close, compulsorily purchased. The people that remain have not been compensated. Promised window insulation has not been installed. Bus stops, children’s play areas and a public park have been sealed shut. It is no wonder there is a sense that crime is rising, while traders in Drummond Street warn their profits are down.

Throughout this disgraceful and unnecessary upheaval, public opinion has been manifestly ignored. Why is this newspaper the only voice of the people when it comes to HS2? Where is Camden? Where are the ward councillors and Town Hall leader Georgia Gould? The MP Keir Starmer. Where is the Labour Party?

The party, if true to its roots, should be calling meetings, organising protests. Instead, all we see is submission and facilitation.

Shutting Eversholt Street just for a few days would strangulate Somers Town. The impact of several months of closure is unfathomable. The fact that it is even being considered at all reveals the sense of project’s managers’ sense of entitlement.

Its chief executive is paid a £600,000 annual salary. The officials running the project are among the highest paid in the country. The publicly-owned land around Euston station, which will be sold off to developers, Lendlease has been given first option, has been estimated at £5-6billion. Nationally, the railway is a joke. A white elephant. An earth-shattering waste of public money that could be redirected to the NHS, council housing, a radical overhaul of youth services.

A replacement shuttle bus to and from Camden Town is the very least that should be proffered from a government-backed scheme widely believed to have more than £100billion of public money at its disposal.

Residents have come away from an initial community meeting on closure feeling angry, worried, unwanted. The image of an HS2 official waving away concerns at a community meeting has stuck in their minds.

During the official method of consultation – the “petitioning” through the Commons, the Lord’s and back again that lasted from 2004-07 – hundreds of Camden people raised objections. None led to any meaningful change.

The council repeatedly stated its opposition while working hand in hand to make the project happen. The council’s former administration accepted new homes, school and won a string of planning “assurances” as part of the pact.

The council failed to get behind the residents who were left behind and have, since the project was approved two years ago, taken a back seat. Now thousands of people are feeling the pinch. They are not just being left behind, they are being dismissed. They are treated as if they don’t exist.

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