‘I could be blinded by HS2 dust’
Claims that HS2 has not done enough to protect residents from noise and dust
30 July, 2020 — By Tom Foot
Sajjad Miah spent six months on a life-support machine after being attacked
A FORMER tenants’ leader who suffered devastating injuries when he was attacked defending his home fears he could be blinded by dust from a HS2 railway building site.
Sajjad Miah has to wear goggles outdoors to stop debris getting into his eyes, which he has been told he will never be able to close again.
The 54-year-old lives in Coburg Street, directly opposite what he described as “earthquake”-level noise from the HS2 high-speed rail scheme’s main Euston construction site.
He is one of several residents who spoke out this week about how they feel they have been left with no protection against the noise and dust as work rumbles on as part of the new multibillion-pound railway to Birmingham and cities in the north – a project which was vehemently opposed in Camden.
Tenants left in blocks on the fringe of the demolition areas have faced a tortuous period during the coronavirus lockdown, with many unable to escape their homes or even open their windows.
Mr Miah spent six months on a life-support machine at the Royal Free Hospital last year after he was struck on the head by an intruder in his garden.
He now has a large scar running down his forehead and irreparable damage to his face and eyes.
A man was convicted of the attack at Highbury Magistrates’ Court last year but released with a fine, said Mr Miah.
Mr Miah told the New Journal: “I was sitting reading the paper and this man came in to my garden trying to take something. In the end, he nearly took my life. He hit me on my head and now my eyes cannot close.”
He added: “For six months I haven’t closed my eyes, I couldn’t blink. They say I will not be able to do it ever again. And so the dust is a big problem for me with HS2 – I could lose my sight. It’s why I wear these glasses. They say I am 50 per cent all right now, but what will it be like in three years?”
Tenants from the Drummond Street estate who spoke to the New Journal this week said the area “was like a sandstorm with the dust” on sunny days and there are “a lot of people coughing and it’s not Covid-19”.
Tenants have spent lockdown trapped next to one of the country’s biggest construction sites
Mr Miah’s daughter, Aysha Begum, said: “If dust gets into his eyes, not eventually, but pretty much straight away, he will turn blind. They have said it will scar his eyes because the eye is such a delicate area.”
“He is diabetic and elderly. That’s what his hospital doctors and plastic surgeon have said. You don’t think about how much you blink. He is very afraid of this, of HS2, because of this.”
Large HS2 billboards promoting the Drummond Street area with the slogan “Eat, Breathe, Relax” were described as a “sick joke”.
The estate’s tenants said drug-taking has rocketed since the demolition of St James’s Gardens to make way for the new railway terminus. Many say they are now afraid to go out at night.
Mr Miah, a former chairman of the Drummond Street Tenants’ Association, is one of several residents warning of “false promises”, with security doors that were supposed to be introduced on the estate with funding from HS2 yet to be installed.
Designs were agreed and a budget of around £75,000 set, but the promises have gone cold despite warnings of drug-taking being rife in the communal square.
Ms Begum said: “They took the park away, St James’ Gardens, and so the drug users started coming to our block. We have been brought up here. I was born in Starcross Street in 1980. I taught in Maria Fidelis. That area was never like that before, it was a place we could play.”
The New Journal reported last month on Langdale residents’ concerns about deafening construction noise during the lockdown. They also warned about failures to introduce air and noise insulation to protect against the works.
The council has been highly critical of HS2, claiming managers had failed to follow through with one of the “key mitigations secured from the government” for 1,300 properties in Camden.
‘Eat, Breathe, Relax’ in Drummond Street
“HS2 had three years to complete this scheme before main works commenced, yet it has only installed the full package of measures in 22 per cent of these properties,” the Town Hall said in a statement.
Only a handful of residents have received the “SonAir F” mechanical ventilators which should have been installed in hundreds of homes along with secondary glazing for windows.
The Camden HS2 Association of Residents Groups for Engagement (CHARGE) said “this has all been unacceptably slow”, adding: “HS2 had an obligation to install the noise insulation in homes that would be affected by noise as soon as reasonably practicable.
The New Journal contacted HS2 about this week’s stories but no response was provided by the time we went to press last night (Wednesday). It has said previously “a number of measures” are in place to “minimise disruption”, and that it “takes all complaints extremely seriously.”
On the Drummond Street estate crime complaints, Cllr Danny Beales, the council’s regeneration chief, said: “Camden has installed extra lighting, CCTV cameras, increased mobile patrols in the area and set up a new community liaison team made up of local residents to ensure we can quickly respond to issues.”
‘Shoddy’ shielding Tenants rip out their new windows
FURIOUS tenants whose lives have been made a misery by the HS2 development project are ripping out windows and preparing to dump them in the street, writes Tom Foot.
Residents who have had to spend the coronavirus lockdown next to the railway construction site in Euston say they have not been given any real protection against its dust and noise.
Noel Barry is going to return the windows – and says HS2 has not done enough to protect residents
Some have found themselves unable to open their windows, with one woman frustrated that she could not lean out to clap NHS staff during the weekly Thursday salutes.
Now “secondary glazing” is being installed, but residents say there is no chance of the “shoddy” frames shielding them.
Noel Barry, who lives in Coburg Street, said: “I will be fly tipping them outside the main entrance of HS2 because they are rubbish and that’s the best place for them. I have been asking them to come and collect them for months, but they won’t do it.” He added: “This lot, they don’t know their tits from their elbow.”
Jennifer Shepheard, who has lived at the estate all her life, said: “I have COPD, emphysema. I have problems breathing anyway. We have the noise, the flats shaking, great big lorries, cracks coming up, left, right and centre. And this is going on until 2031? “I had to get little steps so I could get up to the window, but then I couldn’t get out. I had to WD40 them and everything.”
Many tenants in Coburg Street were moved out of their homes to alternative housing after HS2 compulsory purchased the land. But several have been left behind in homes overlooking the huge construction site, with lorries and diggers coming and going all day and often late into the night.
HS2 has been criticised by the council for only installing noise insulation and air ventilation in 22 per cent of homes that it was supposed to – more than three years after demolition works began.
Jackson Toms-Limb, from the Camden Cutting Group (CCG), representing residents along the railway running into Euston, said: “The CCG remains concerned with the slow delivery of noise insulation to the neighbourhood, especially given the imminent start of major piling work in the Cutting from November which is expected to include out-of-hours activity.”
Camden is one of the areas worst affected by HS2 across the country and faces around 20 years of demolition and disruption.
Some businesses – including the Bree Louise pub in Euston and a nearby hotel – have already been seized under compulsory purchase orders and flattened.
Thousands of bodies, meanwhile, are being dug up from a burial ground close to the station so the work can go ahead.
Town Hall regeneration Labour chief, Cllr Danny Beales, said: “Our own community liaison team have heard first-hand about the issues residents are facing around ventilation and quality of windows. This is clearly not acceptable.”
He added: “It is inexcusable at this point that only 22 per cent of homes have had the full package of measures installed. It is also disappointing that, for some time, our own site inspections have been raising issues of quality with HS2 and they have failed to address these concerns.”
“We will continue to hold HS2 Ltd to account on these matters while also pushing for any additional measures needed to support residents