Residents need professional and legal help on their side against developers
14 August, 2020
Sajjad Miah, who fears he could be blinded by dust from a HS2 railway building site
• I WAS so sorry to learn of the injuries suffered by Sajjad Miah, made worse by dust coming from the HS2 development, to the point where he is almost blinded, (‘I could be blinded by HS2 dust’, July 30).
This must be one of the worse among the many cases reported by people having their lives blighted by construction works.
The management of building works is supposed to be controlled by construction management plans (CMPs), agreements to ensure developers stick to approved plans, health and safety measures, and residents are protected throughout against noise, vibration, and dust. In reality CMPs can be abused with impunity.
The council are suppose to enforce them but they are so under-resourced that developers run rings round them. By the time they react, the damage is already done. So what happened to the promises made by HS2 to protect against noise and dust?
Public-minded residents are encouraged to form construction working groups (CWGs) as a contact point for their community, the developer and the council.
Developers tend to dismiss them as an inconvenience. Willing CWG volunteers give up in frustration because they get lip service and simple brush-offs, exactly as you reported. Developers use phrases like “measures are in place”, when they are not, and that it “takes all complaints extremely seriously”. So seriously they are ignored.
I witnessed the anguish of the HS2 residents some two years ago in a public meeting where they were reporting rat infestations, unbearable noise and dust, and roadwork chaos, as some buildings were already being demolished.
I felt their helplessness; residents can’t be expected to know the technicalities of development and construction control.
They wouldn’t know which powers to use to ensure everything is in place, even before works starts, or have the time and expertise to ensure continual monitoring and adherence.
Surely residents need professional and legal help on their side to act and speak for them. Why can’t the developer be made to commit and pay for this service at the start of planning applications?
At last this measure is being considered in planning enforcement meetings with Camden which I attend.
Let’s hope the discussions lead to positive action by the council; there will be environmental justice for residents only if they can be empowered to hold developers to account.