‘Unbearable’ HS2 construction noise making lockdown ‘impossible’ for residents, says Camden
- Credit: Archant
Hundreds of council tenants in Camden are suffering “unbearable” construction noise after HS2 failed to install promised noise-proofing measures in their properties.
Camden Council said it had received 140 noise complaints after works began on the high-speed rail scheme near Euston station, despite only a quarter of households having received the promised improvements.
Councillors agreed last week that unless the noise-proofing measures were quickly delivered, it would rehouse hundreds of tenants from its Regent’s Park estate and then try to claim the costs back from HS2.
But HS2 claims the works are not noisy enough to put it in breach of its agreement with the council.
The council said last week that it would seek £129million compensation from the government-backed rail project, to purchase replacement council homes.
It said the noise was making 130 council properties uninhabitable, but that relocating tenants would come at a “significant” cost.
It would lose 130 council properties and the associated rental income, incur extra costs from the relocation, and its already lengthy housing waiting list would grow even longer.
HS2 promised in 2016 to noise-proof properties on the estate, where construction work is set to last a decade.
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But cabinet member Danny Beales said in a public meeting last week that deadlines for installing the noise-proofing had been extended, despite works having begun.
So far, only the preliminary works are underway. The main works will be even louder.
Mary McGowan, director of housing management, said: “Residents are feeling very angry and finding it harder and harder to cope... It’s clear that it’s becoming increasingly unbearable for residents to live there and Covid has made it worse, with people having to spend more and more time in their homes.”
She added: “We now believe that HS2 will breach the assurances gained by the council on noise, by failing to deliver the protective mitigations that were promised.
“It’s a very, very exceptional situation and we do know that it’s going to be impossible for those people for at least ten years... We need to do something exceptional.”
Tenants will be given top priority for rehousing, but the council already has almost 1,000 households on its waiting list with the same priority level.
HS2 accepted that only 54 per cent of affected households had so far received any noise-proofing and only 25pc had received the full package.
But, said a spokesperson: “We have an undertaking and assurance for this to be completed before noisy works can begin, which is triggered by works meeting a noise threshold.
“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 reoccurrence.”
Cllr Beales, Camden’s cabinet member for investing in communities, claimed last week that HS2’s public position contradicted what it was saying behind closed doors.
He told a Housing Scrutiny Committee meeting that HS2 had privately conceded that it should fund the relocations, but he suspected negative headlines over the project’s ballooning budget were making it hesitant to accept the hefty bill.
Since 2010, the projected cost of the new rail network, which would reduce the travel times between major cities, has mushroomed from just over £30billion to almost £100billion.
Cllr Beales said: “Their own assessment, I think, is that the opportunities they have to fund this programme actually present significant benefits. In their words, it significantly represents a deal that is value for money, as well as being morally the right thing to do.
“So I think in that context, you do have to question, what is the motivation for not agreeing this and not meeting residents’ basic human rights and needs?
“The best explanation I can probably give is, I think it’s probably just the path of least resistance. Agreeing a significant amount of funding at this stage potentially does present some embarrassment, or might be deemed to present some embarrassment, to HS2, which is obviously under significant budgetary pressure.”
HS2 declined to comment on Cllr Beales’s claim, but said: “HS2 and the Department for Transport have been working closely with Camden Council, and will continue to work together to try and find solutions that address the issues faced by residents affected by the construction works at Euston.”