Grabbed by the throat

Euston Station, part 6

We learnt in Growing pains and suggestions for how to avoid them (posted 10 Jul 2012) that the arrangement of tracks that feeds into the platforms of a railway terminus is known as the “throat”. The plans for HS2 call for extensive changes to the throat of Euston Station. Not only is the width of the throat to be approximately doubled, but the trackbeds will need to be lowered by approximately two metres to allow the clearance required for HS2 trains under the Hampstead Road bridge. This will be, I think it is fair to say, a major construction exercise. In view of this, I will complete this series of blogs on the Euston Station area by looking at the impacts that the construction of the new throat will have.

Again I have extracted a map of the area from profile informationprepared for the area by the London Borough of Camden to which I have added additional labels in blue. The red line indicates the extent of the expanded station throat.

Map of the Euston Station throat (Source: L B of Camden)

I am devoting most of this blog to the blocks of flats which Camden Council has coloured in light blue on the map, but firstly I will mention the properties that I have indicated by my additional labels in blue.

The large property at 132-142 Hampstead Road consists of two warehouses and a fuel filling station. Planning permission has been granted for these buildings to be developed for mixed use by Derwent London plc at a cost of £52 million, but this may be in doubt as the risk of demolition is clear.

I am also worried about the effects that heavy construction work may have on the early nineteenth century houses at 261 and 263 Hampstead Road and 1 Mornington Crescent and the terrace at 2-12 Mornington Crescent. These are all Grade II listed and 6 Mornington Crescent bears a blue plaque declaring that painter Walter Sickert lived there.

Nos 1-12 Mornington Crescent

Stalbridge House is a large Edwardian red brick mansion block that is right in the path of the proposed new tracks.

Stalbridge House

Behind Stalbridge House the social housing blocks of the Regents Park Estate are set out. According to the profile information published by Camden Council, this estate “is made up of a variety of low, medium and high rise blocks set in space, with the resulting density being low for this central London location”.

HS2 will affect the eastern area of Regent’s Park Estate (known as Regents Park Estate 3). At least three blocks, accommodating 168 homes, will be demolished: Ainsdale (22 tenants, 17 leaseholders); Silverdale (57 tenants, 12 leaseholders); and, Eskdale (49 tenants, 11 leaseholders and pictured below).

Eskdale, Regents Park Estate

The Council has also identified that “an additional 153 homes could potentially be at risk as Camden officers are concerned about the proximity of the construction work and the impacts of development generally to the following properties: Langdale, Coniston and Cartmel”.

But those are just numbers. What is really significant is that 20% of tenanted households on the Estate are over 65 years old. Just what the threat of HS2 means to the older tenants is brought home by a short film made by Jane Gull and the comments made by three of them in particular.

Stan is 85 and has been living in his flat overlooking the railway since 1961. He is a veteran of the Second World War Arctic convoys. In the film he says:

“The community here are devastated and feel that nobody cares. We are just something on a map.”

George is 92 and has lived on the Estate for 58 years. He survived a wartime prison camp but thinks “the HS2 is going to kill me”. He is angry and apprehensive:

“Why should I be uprooted, I fought for the Country? Why should they do that to me? I haven’t got a soul in the world, my family are all dead, and I’ve got a sister-in-law who does the work for me and gives me food. If I had to move away from here, who’s going to look after me?”

So is Iris:

“God knows where they’re going to put people. I haven’t got a clue. It’s a sin to knock down good flats which the Council has modernised and put all new windows in. It’s crazy.”

She is also concerned about losing her local doctor.

Stan highlights the problems that being required to move house poses for an ageing community:

“All that hassle of moving … will cause people’s demise. You can’t do those things at that age.”

And George says:

“Who’s going to help me to pack my home up and that and where are they going to send me? It’s a worry every day.”

Iris expresses what many must be thinking:

“I’m just hoping that by the time this happens I’m dead, and I really and sincerely mean this.”

And of course, although Euston is likely to be one of the first areas where construction starts, it is possible that a number of the Regent’s Park Estate residents will indeed have passed away before this happens. However, their time remaining will have been dominated by the anxiety that HS2 is causing.

Stan sums it up well:

“Is twenty or thirty minutes of a businessman’s or woman’s time more important than our community? This is our street and we don’t want to leave.”

Acknowledgement: The Ordinance Survey data which the London Borough of Camden used to produce its map has been reproduced in accordance with the principles of fair dealing as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.  On this basis, this mapping is:

Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO.

© Crown Copyright. All rights reserved.

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