London councillor says HS2 building work is ‘a living hell’ for residents

A London[1] council has accused HS2 of reneging on its commitments to residents after people living near the construction of the high-speed rail link complained of dust, noise and vibrations in their homes.

Council residents living metres away from building work on part of the project close to Euston station say their lives have become “hellish” and have urged the rail company to rehouse them en masse, at an estimated cost of GBP100m.

The construction of the first phase of the project between London and Birmingham has led to protests from environmental campaigners over the loss of ancient woodland to make way for the new track.

But it is also having a significant impact on urban areas. Euston will be a major hub for the new high-speed rail link and there is a range of housing around the station.

While the prime minister’s father, Stanley Johnson, received GBP4.4m[2] compensation from HS2 for parting with his home in Camden to allow building for the project, many residents on Camden council’s Regent’s Park estate, close to Euston, have been less fortunate. Three of the blocks on the estate have been demolished to make way for the HS2 project but three remain, along with some council properties in two nearby streets.

Camden councillor Danny Beales who leads on the HS2[3] issue in the borough, said the company had failed to provide noise insulation for all the households requesting it and was “woefully behind” with the programme.

He said the situation was so bad it was common for residents on the estate to email him in the early hours of the morning saying the noise of the construction work was preventing them from sleeping.

Council data from May, shared with the Guardian, shows that just 13% of noise mitigation works, such as extra glazing to homes in the blocks, have been completed. HS2 disputes these figures and says 55% of this noise insulation work has been completed.

Beales has also accused HS2 of falling short on undertakings given about the number of replacement trees planted, some of the demolition methods used and levels of rat baiting. “The site is a living hell for residents. It isn’t humane to make people live like this.

It’s heartless. These blocks are no longer habitable.”

He is calling on HS2 to fund rehousing for all the residents who remain on the estate and are adversely affected by the construction work. Residents say there is constant dust and noise inside their homes from the construction work.

They have complained of shaking walls and vibrating objects.

Some have reported increases in cases of asthma and other respiratory conditions since the work started, while others say there has been a loss of a sense of community on the estate due to construction work, hoardings and road closures.

While HS2 funded the rehousing of council residents from the three demolished blocks, it has not so far agreed to do the same for the remaining 175 households, 44 of whom are leaseholders and the rest council tenants.

Fabio Di Lorio, 47, says he has lived on the estate in a two-bedroom flat for 17 years and that until HS2 arrived his life was very happy. He has filmed HS2 cranes metres away from his balcony and glasses on his table shaking as a result of the construction work.

“HS2 has destroyed our lives,” said Di Lorio. “I cannot remain in my home, so I leave at 8am every day and go and sit in different coffee shops just to get away. I am studying for a door supervisor qualification but often, because of the HS2 works, the wifi isn’t working, which makes studying more difficult as it is mostly online.

“HS2, you have destroyed my house, you have destroyed my life and you have destroyed my environment.

I cannot eat and I cannot rest. I cannot even watch TV any more because even on maximum volume I can no longer hear it because of the construction work.”

Another resident, Hodan Mahamoud, who also works as a community liaison assistant, said she and her mother had developed asthma since the HS2 construction work started, a condition neither had previously.

“The HS2 work has had such a drastic impact on all of us. Our homes no longer feel like home.

We have lost our green spaces and the dust and noise pollution is just so bad,” she said.

An HS2 spokesperson said the company was working with partners “to identify new ways to further address the disruption experienced by residents at Euston.

We are working closely with Camden council colleagues in considering if there is more that can be done for the residents in these blocks.

“In addition to the minimisation of noise, dust and vibration, which is continually monitored and the installation of environmental impact mitigation measures ahead of trigger works, there are two compensation schemes available: the special cases provision and the prolonged disruption compensation scheme.

Our performance on noise, vibration and air quality is published monthly.”

References

  1. ^ London (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ received GBP4.4m (www.theguardian.com)
  3. ^ HS2 (www.theguardian.com)