I attended, along with around 50 others (residents groups and councillors) a briefing given by the HS2 team at Camden Town Hall just before Christmas. There’s a lot of information you can find on the HS2 website, especially the announcement of the proposed change of route for consultation published by the Secretary of State on the 20th December.
Below are some observations, these do not attempt to be comprehensive and do reflect our particular interests as Swiss Cottage ward councillors.
The main consultation on the route will take place in the first few months of 2011 – exact timings and process to be announced. This is the real opportunity for public information and consultation on what is undoubtedly a complex and concerning proposal. While Camden Council is not the planning authority, as ultimately this will be decided by a so-called Hybrid Bill in Parliament, it is vital that the Council keeps involved to ensure the consultation is as effective as possible. I suggested to them at the meeting that given the diversity of Camden and the fact the issues change as you move north, the consultation needs to be very locally focused and relevant to Euston, then Primrose Hill/Belsize, then Kilburn etc.
While there are no changes to the proposed westward expansion of Euston (with demolition of around 300 homes), in the Primrose Hill/Swiss Cottage area the line has been moved north by around 100m, and will be closer to existing tunnels. The detailed map of the route in our area is here. Effectively it goes under Gloucester Avenue, then crosses Adelaide Rd around Eton Rd, then along Fellows Rd under the Chalcots blocks, then under Swiss Cottage open space, Regency Lodge, the Hilgrove estate and then the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate.
It will be deeper than originally outlined, some 30-50m, reflecting the height of the ground – ie it will get deeper as the ground rises up to Fellows Rd. According to HS2, the change in route reflects further work by them and in particular the increased depth and closer alignment with existing tunnels, as well as the fact that there is now a link to St Pancras/HS1 as well as Euston. Some of our residents in Swiss Cottage ward will be relieved by the change in route, others in our ward, and many in Belsize ward, will inevitably be very concerned. It is unfortunate that as it happens in Camden the route is now very largely under council estates.
Ventilation shafts – the shaft at Hawtrey Rd is of course gone. Instead we have one on Adelaide Rd near the nature reserve (but on railway land) and one in Alexandra Place where the arcade of shops is. The shafts are two storey buildings around 25x25m with some parking for emergency vehicles. While HS2 emphasised how inobtrusive such ventilation shafts are in East London on HS1, and how they can reflect local situations to some extent, there are natural concerns about noise, fumes etc as well as visual impact. All of this needs to be examined in detail, not least as the plans for Alexandra Place are very near housing, and seem to supercede the council’s own estate regeneration thinking in the area.
It was emphasised that the tunnels (three single tunnels) would all be dug from Old Oak Common in West London, with all earth etc removed from there.
Many concerns were naturally expressed both about vibration during construction, about settlement of older homes nearby (and what degree of guarantees will be given), and about long term stability, not least for high rise blocks. HS2 has a lot of answers but the devil is clearly in the detail and all of these issues will have to be examined in great detail.
This is going to keep all of us busy over the coming months, and as Swiss Cottage councillors we’ll be doing what we can to keep residents informed and represent their views. The Primrose Hill HS2 Reference Group website is also worth looking at, though at the moment it does not reflect the revised route.