Has anybody asked the locals?

In his speech in Manchester’s town hall at the launch of his HS2 Plus report, Sir David Higgins, Chairman of HS2 Ltd, described the area around Euston station as “one of the last great development sites in London”. In his written statement to the House of Commons on the Higgins Review, the Transport Secretary described the proposed redevelopment of Euston station and environs as “a significant opportunity to maximise the economic potential of the line and regenerate a site that has been neglected”. Perhaps uppermost in Mr McLoughlin’s mind though was his view that the proposal also represented “a significant opportunity to generate private sector investment that can reduce the overall burden on the taxpayer”.

Although we will have to await “the more comprehensive proposals for the redevelopment of Euston” that the Transport Secretary said he will ask HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to draw up, it is clear that the risk of compulsory purchase is now likely to extend well beyond the safeguarded area as currently defined. The power that will be conferred by the proposed Clause 47 of the HS2 Phase 1 hybrid Bill will allow the Government to hoover up any piece of land, anywhere, that it feels is ripe for “regeneration or development”. It is no wonder that Sir David Higgins was able to tell the Camden New Journal that property developers are “knocking on [HS2 Ltd’s] door”.

In the report of his interview with the Camden New Journal, the newspaper quotes Sir David as describing the estates around Euston as “some of the most deprived in the country”. The article also credits him with the view that demolishing blocks on the Regent’s Park Estate would actually be doing that part of Camden a favour. It reports that he “spoke enthusiastically about the benefits his plan would bring to a part of London that he cast as down on its uppers, appearing to suggest that it should be treated in the same way that struggling areas around Stratford were transformed into the 2012 Olympic site”. The newspaper offers an alternative view:

“Sceptics say helping people living there will not be best achieved by simply allowing big companies to build a host of skyscrapers on the site, potentially towering over Bloomsbury to the south and Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park itself to the north.”

Sir David also appears to overlook the fact that his development site supports a community, providing homes, amenities and work places. Another article in the Camden New Journal reproduces the full text of an open letter written to Sir David Higgins, in the light of his comments made to that newspaper, by Cllr Nasim “Nash” Ali, OBE, Member of Camden Borough Council and a former leader of that body.

Cllr Ali is obviously not best pleased with Sir David. He says, in his letter, that he felt “both insulted and patronised” by Sir David’s comments and accuses him of seeing the community’s “homes and curry houses as no more than a blot on the landscape for the class of passenger able to afford high speed travel”. He labels Sir David a self-styled “knight in shining armour” who is out to “heal our deprived neighbourhood with regeneration”.

In contrast to Sir David’s rather bleak view, Cllr Ali describes his community as “diverse and vibrant” and “at ease with itself”. He accuses Sir David of seeing improvements that have been made to the area as “no more than rich pickings” for Sir David’s “master plan”. Cllr Ali rejects Sir David’s description of a community “down on its uppers” and reflects that some residents have been living in the blocks of the Regent’s Park Estate since they were first built in the 1950s. He says that the residents “have a common desire to retain their existing homes and communities”.

Cllr Ali also makes a telling comparison between the thriving small business community west of the current Euston station and what might replace it should Sir David and Patrick McLoughlin have their way:

“Drummond Street reflects the contribution made by the British Bangladeshi community to our nation of shop keepers over the past 50 years. It is now a unique neighbourhood with its blend of curry houses, shops and business. All these businesses are the outcome of individual endeavour. We abhor your vision of a shopping mall dominated by your business friends with their bland chains such as Burger King, Harry Ramsden’s and Upper Crust.”

So how could the Chairman of HS2 Ltd be so wrong about the Euston community? It appears from what Cllr Ali has to say that perhaps Sir David has not tried very hard to seek out a true picture, something on which the councillor chastises him in the letter:

“It is a matter of regret that you did not have the courtesy to even respond to the invitation from the HS2 Euston Action Group to visit our community before you announced your master plan.”

I must say that, from my own perambulations around the area, I identify more with the councillor’s description of his community that with what Sir David had to say.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on April 26, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Euston station development with a wider level throat that currently is more likely than double decking and so the current deliberate confusion and distractions.

    Google Earth and consider the area from Hampstead Road to Melton Street the wider mouth and you can see the reason for the current pause on this area as it becomes unstoppable later. Same as Reading was not in Crossrail 1 only Maidenhead as there was a election in the area at the time. Self interest applies in the land grabs it is only timing in most cases.

    Currently the floor if Euston is not coping and would fail to do so when trains from ECML are diverted in through HS2.

    Reply

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