CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

You thought lockdown was hard? Try it next to a noisy, dusty building site full of rats

Now tenants want their own block demolished

26 June, 2020 — By Tomn Foot

Joao Miguel looks out from the block’s balcony

DOZENS of tenants are demanding to be moved out of a squalid housing block because of “unacceptable living conditions” caused by HS2.

A petition signed by tenants of 40 homes in Langdale, in Regent’s Park estate, said dust, pollution and “extreme noise” from the HS2 construction site is impacting on their physical and mental health.

The eight-storey council block has become overrun by rats driven up from the worksite and “criminal behaviour” is rife, the tenants say.

Children have nowhere to play because estate greens and playgrounds have been removed to make way for the £120billion railway into Euston.

Tenants said their kitchen tables shake when the construction work is in full flow. They have contacted an independent surveyor whose preliminary report suggested the council could be failing in a legal duty of care and the High Speed Rail Act 2017 may have been broken on environmental grounds.

Joao Miguel, who lives with his partner and four children in a one-bed flat, said: “You have no idea how much we are suffering. “I have four kids. They cannot sleep because of the noise. This site here used to have a children’s playground for them to play, but that has been demolished too. The boys are full of energy in the day. It is crazy.”

“I remember when they demolished those buildings, big rats came. First they were just in the corridors, now they are in my home. It is impossible to move out of here, I cannot get the points – even for six people in a one-bedroom flat.”

Langdale directly overlooks the site of former council housing blocks, a playground and the 2014 new-build Granby House block that has been demolished by HS2.

Residents in the demolished council blocks were rehoused in new homes on the Regent’s Park estate. But those in neighbouring Langdale, Coniston and Cartmel, have been left within metres of one of the biggest construction sites in Europe. Works are scheduled to go on in and around Euston until at least 2031.

The New Journal on Monday saw pigeon excrement plastered across most of the walkways, flies, a used condom was hanging from a handrail and there was evidence of drug taking in the stairwells. Parents said they were scared to send their children to the shops because of criminal behaviour in the block.

Full council tax and rent is being charged despite double-glazed windows promised in response to HS2 not yet being fitted.

One young mother said her primary school-age daughter had recently been referred to UCH for tests for new breathing difficulties.

The woman, who did not want to be named because of a personal privacy issue, said: “They were talking about moving us at one point. But when push came to shove, they decided to leave us. Why were we left here? My children are not well, I’m not well. It’s affecting all of us in so many ways.”

The New Journal has previously reported on the infestations of mice and rats that have risen up from depths of the railway and into people’s homes since the HS2 works began. The young mother said: “It’s not even mice anymore, the rats have eaten all those. And now they are in the walls and trying to get into our homes. When I smoke outside my door, I stand on the buggy. I have been crying. I can’t take it anymore, they have taken away our home.”

Tenants said they believed vulnerable people had been moved into empty homes on the estate because they were not well enough to “put up a fight about the conditions”. Langdale, Coniston and Cartmel – the blocks are named after unspoilt idylls in the Lake District – were once on a list of blocks being considered for decanting during early HS2 consultation.

The council brought a judicial review in 2013 to the High Court, which argued that the blocks of 153 flats should be pulled down along with Eskdale, Ainsdale and Silverdale. The council later dropped its opposition claiming it had secured “100 assurances” that would protect residents during the construction.

Pigeon excrement covers the stairwells

Camden’s regeneration chief Councillor Danny Beales said he was “really concerned” by the disruption and said he had written to HS2’s chief executive “urging him to immediately resume noise insulation works to properly protect residents”. Only around a fifth of affected properties had the full package of mitigating measures, he said, adding he wanted “greater transparency” from HS2 about their “programme for residents in these blocks”.

A HS2 Ltd spokesperson said: “We have a number of measures in place to minimise disruption for residents near our construction sites. We take all complaints extremely seriously and have an extensive complaints policy and process. “We use noise monitors and if noise level limits are exceeded work may be paused, the source identified, and mitigation put in place to prevent recurrence.”

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