The morning started with hedgehogs. HS2 (High Speed Rail 2) want to use London Zoo‘s carpark as a lorry depot. Hedgehogs live on the leafy edges of the carpark. Could this endangered species survive the estimated two hundred (the number varies) lorry movements a day? The zoo’s director thought not, and asked HS2 to re-site their lorry depot, calling witnesses including a Small Mammal Expert. I was very grateful to HS2’s QC Mr Mould for explaining to us at length how daylight hours were shorter in winter, the nights were longer, etc. One of his team consulted his laptop and passed Mr Mould a Post-It. Hedgehogs often hibernated, Mr Mould then informed us. Presumably he thought the hedgehogs would be asleep and not notice lorry movements. He went on to suggest a hedgehog tunnel, not specifying exactly where this would lead.
Time ticked on, two of the Lords fell asleep (or maybe rested with their eyes closed) and another endangered species, a Baroness, roused herself to exclaim how much she loved wildlife, especially the frogs who lived in her Sussex garden. The Doorkeeper, dressed in a black tailcoat and white tie, closed his eyes and meditatively chewed gum, while one of the Lords discreetly snacked. The wallpaper was green and pink Pugin, Royals hanging on the walls gazed down at us and a friend texted me to tell me to stop fidgeting – she was watching the day’s events televised in real time. I spoke briefly at 16.36 , having arrived in the Committee Room at 10am as requested.
The Committee Room was hot and airless, Mr Mould QC looked impassive under his bushy brows as representatives of various Residents’ Associations spoke eloquently about the negative effects of current HS2 plans. The landlord of Camden pub and music venue the Dublin Castle had his say, and after waiting six and a half hours I had mine too.
I was there to emphasise crucial concerns relating to my petition (it costs £20 to submit one btw) to ask the Lords to press HS2 for assurances about independent monitoring of their works, including works causing dust pollution. At the moment they intend to monitor themselves, which is fairly outrageous. I also asked for increased assurances about upfront compensation should their works, which include tunnelling under my basement home and relining the street sewers, cause damage to my home or indeed anyone’s home.
I pointed out some of the misleading information HS2 had given us, for example claiming their TBMs, aka tunnel boring machines, were the same size as those of Crossrail. HS2’s are 1 metre larger, therefore the tunnels will be bigger. A couple of weeks previously, two HS2 representatives (including an engineer who confirmed this) visited me, implying that petitioning was a waste of time, which may well be, as HS2 make planning changes which undermine the petitioning process.
We are all fiercely opposed to HS2’s irrational plans. Primrose Hill probably isn’t going to suffer as much as the Camden and Euston area is – many people in social housing will lose their homes – and I’m not against fast trains, but at the moment HS2 is an ill-thought out, hugely expensive vanity project with incoherent plans, and I just hope the Lords (those awake that is) appreciate the strength of our arguments. There are more important things to spend our money on.