HS2: Camden does care

HERE’S a biff in the chin for anybody in Camden campaigning against the HS2 rail link. Natalie Haynes’s bizarre column in The Independent suggests that there hasn’t been much of a fuss made in London where homes will be flattened to make room for the big train. It’s actually more than homes, it’s a little community which now has a date with the wrecking ball.

Haynes today comes up with the odd notion that they are ‘up in arms in the Chilterns’ but not here. They are. Here. Now. Always were.

She writes: “Oddly there seems to have been almost no campaign against HS2 from people living in London who will lose their homes rather than their views”.

This is more than a little insulting to the people and politicians in the south of the borough who have done their best to get heard over the last 18 months or so – often in the face of confusing statements from the government and a consultation survey which seemed powerless for them to use to make any real difference. What’s more insulting is that Haynes’s piece tunes exactly into a problem exacerbated by the national media every time this issue has come up, the problem of who gets heard in our newspapers. The coverage has more often than not gone to Tory versus Tory battles in the countryside, on the assumption by journalists that these quarrels could in some way rock the coalition and have wider ramifications for who leads the cabinet and the government.

And, you know what?, here’s a big surprise, the coverage has gone to people with more resources than the tenants and leaseholders down in the threatened council blocks near Regent’s Park. People with famous names and big estates always find it easier to get their views broadcast. On the television last night, actor Geoffrey Palmer was clearly ‘up in arms’, from a picturesque place outside of London, but nobody bothered to ask what the pensioners in Ainsdale thought. They are up in arms as well, but it’s hard to campaign when you are in your 80s and not sure whether you are being booted out of your homes or not.

What Natalie Haynes should know is that just because the coverage and the headlines have gone elsewhere, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a beating campaign south of Camden Town – it doesn’t mean that people do not care.

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9 Comments on HS2: Camden does care

  1. David Douglas // January 11, 2012 at 11:38 am // Reply

    Coleman attacks High Speed 2 plans for Euston

    Camden’s London Assembly member, Brian Coleman, has attacked plans to demolish hundreds of homes around Euston station to make way for High Speed 2.

    Commenting as the Secretary of State for Transport prepared to announce plans today for the terminus station to be built at the southern end of Mr Coleman’s constituency, he said:

    “For my residents the cost of High Speed 2 is simply too high. Hundreds of my residents, who live near Euston station, which will be the line’s terminus station, are to have their homes demolished to make way for the line. That is simply unacceptable and I am utterly against the plan.

    “In addition it is reckoned that building work for the new platforms for HS2 trains will last eight years and that the new line will lead to massive overcrowding at Euston because the Northern and Victoria lines, even after the Tube upgrade, won’t be able to cope with the number of passengers who will arrive there.”

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  2. Richard has every reason to be up in arms. The CNJ has made of HS 2 a consistent campaign.

    And it’s not just articulate words from Cllr Sue Vincent in the south. It’s outstanding erudite contributions from the pan-Camden anti-HS2 group, led by Primrose Hill residents Peter Jones and Tim Stockton, who have proved to be altruistic, tireless, well informed. They have built a very sensible case for Old oak Common as a rational terminus. But whether its the case for business, environment, carbon it’s apparent that reason doesn’t enter it.

    Come to think of it, Jonny Bucknall and I have been pretty vociferous about it too – particularly in my case on the ramifications for the Overground, the thousand people in the Regent’s Park Estate and the fact that Euston will become ground zero when devasted. Yesterday, we heard that £1bn will be pumped into Euston but my bet is that pays only up to the concrete roof over the platforms. Realise that BBC Broadcasting House’s refurn in Lamngham Place has gone through more than a billion pounds in the last few years, so a billion ain’t that impressive.

    Frankly, I’m appalled by our all our national politicians being so totally out of touch (with Frank Dobson MP the exception). That includes my own Lib Dem party Transport minister Norman Baker, who I have lobbied twice on HS 2 to no avail. I thought he was complacent yesterday on Newsnight when he said “It’s only £750m in this Parliament”, at a time we’re struggling to save pre-schooling.

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  3. Sarah Hayward // January 11, 2012 at 11:57 am // Reply

    It’s really interesting (and pretty insulting) because the Independent (along with every other national) did receive our press release opposing HS2 yesterday with further follow up from me. You could’ve heard me on LBC or read quotes from Camden in a number of online articles from national outlets.

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  4. Sarah Hayward // January 11, 2012 at 11:58 am // Reply

    Ps I’d also point out the campaign extends further than ‘south of Camden Town’, west of it in Primrose Hill and North West of it in Kilburn their pretty up in arms too.

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  5. Richard Osley // January 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm // Reply

    But also when it came to a big report on BBC London last night, they hardly mentioned Camden at all. They had a reporter in a pub in Great Missenden.

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  6. Richard Osley // January 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm // Reply

    And to the second comment: That’s true, but the blocks on the Regent’s Park estate really have had the least coverage – imagine if they had the route just a little bit up the road and it was going through the Nash terraces.

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  7. Robert Latham // January 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm // Reply

    This says a lot about what this governemnt (and their supporters in the media) mean by “fairness”. If you live in the Chilterns and the view from your bedroom is to be blighted, then it is a matter of serious concern. If you live in an inner city area and your home is to be demolished, they couldn’t care a damn.

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  8. Try this e-mail address for what it’s really like in the county with the highest per capita car ownership in the country, Buckinghamshire

    office@chilternsociety.org.uk

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  9. It’s a classic narrative thing. You guys don’t fit the narrative, so are written out. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read articles claiming that “people north of Birmingham” aren’t objecting, as if that signifies something – they either don’t know or don’t care that the route north of Birmingham hasn’t actually been drawn up yet. In a grim kind of way I can’t wait to see how people make sense of things when phase 2 is drawn up, and we’ve got some of the poorest communities in the Midlands waving placards.

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