Opinion: HS2 must do more to mitigate construction disruption

Cllr Danny Beales said on HS2 "any further uncertainty and blight is unacceptable". Picture: Camden

Cllr Danny Beales said on HS2 "any further uncertainty and blight is unacceptable". Picture: Camden Council - Credit: Archant

Eleven years after it was first mooted as a scheme, HS2 has got the go-ahead from Boris and his government.

It's been 11 long years of uncertainty, blight and anguish for Camden residents - albeit with some key victories along the way.

We supported residents from across Camden to submit petitions to Parliament, detailing concerns ranging from lorry routes to loss of green space, and effects on everything from housing to hedgehogs. Together we secured 100 plus assurances, which we continue to hold HS2 Ltd to account on. In the north of Camden, the proposed vent shaft at Alexandra Place was dropped from plans, saving residents and businesses in the vicinity from years of disruption.

While the decision to proceed with HS2 ends some of the uncertainty and the risk of a decade or more of ongoing blight, we're clear HS2 Ltd must do a lot more to honour their commitments to mitigate construction disruption in Camden. There are also significant unresolved issues, from traffic management to getting Euston Station right.

We've received a significant number of comments from residents on HS2 Ltd's lorry route application, which would affect areas from Adelaide Road to the Regent's Park Estate. We share residents' concerns about noise and pollution and are pushing to ensure that as far as possible, lorries remain on the borough's main roads to minimise impact on residential areas. These considerations and residents' comments will be taken into account by our planning committee when they determine the application. Once agreed, we need to ensure HS2 Ltd meet their commitments to use lower-emission vehicles.

Following the national independent review, it now appears that Old Oak Common will be used as a temporary terminus for the first phase of HS2 in order to get the delivery of a new Euston Station right. However, this doesn't mean that disruptive work on the route's entry into Euston will slow down. Neither is taking Euston out of plans permanently now an option - families have already been moved and buildings have been demolished. A coordinated plan for a new station and long-term local investment is vital. 

Euston may seem a world away from the north and west of the borough - but the scale of opportunity that could be created by a redevelopment there would be felt across Camden. Uniquely placed to tap into the growing 'Knowledge Quarter' in the area - the term that refers to the collection of biomedical, tech and research organisations based there - a well-coordinated redevelopment could establish Euston as a go-to source of employment for residents, and of opportunity for our young people.

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Camden Council needs a seat at the table in future Euston delivery arrangements, on equal terms to HS2 Ltd and other transport bodies, in order to ensure that the views of our communities are central to decision making. We will continue to champion a single plan for one integrated Euston station, rather than the current separate plans for each of the Network Rail, HS2 and TfL/Crossrail stations. We will also push to ensure the surrounding development focuses on locally accessible jobs and homes.

HS2 and the Euston terminus must deliver long-term benefit to Camden to make the disruption worth it. As HS2 is meant to bridge the north/south divide, it must also reduce the stark inequality in Camden, not widen it.