THE BLOG

The HS2 Bill: An Opportunity (And No Longer a Threat)

30/04/2014 17:25 BST | Updated 30/06/2014 10:59 BST

Back in November I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post claiming that the 'HS2 Bill does not protect Camden'. Since then, my colleagues and I at Camden Town Unlimited have been pleasantly surprised, not least because the Hybrid Bill that makes the provisions for the planning of 'Phase One' of the project, from London to Birmingham, no longer represents a direct threat to Camden's businesses community. Actually, it now represents an opportunity; and one that we are keen to pursue.

First and foremost, the contentious proposal to link HS2 with the existing HS1 Eurostar line to the continent has been dropped from the Bill. The Transport Secretary recognised the compromises that the flawed proposal would result in, particularly in terms of "its impact on freight, passengers and the community in Camden." His decision to drop the link followed strong opposition from Camden's activists, Parliamentarians, and the publication of a very measured and sensible set of recommendations from HS2 Ltd's Sir David Higgins. Throughout this process we've been clear in telling the Government that Camden Town is too valuable to lose, as home to some of London's iconic and world-famous markets, as a hub for the creative industries and as a leading tourist attraction.

We haven't been NIMBYs; we've just clearly set out why HS2 should not plough through the centre of Camden on a widened over-ground link that would result in years of disruption. What's more, we've advanced the debate by proposing an alternative that would preserve the wider UK's connectivity with mainland Europe in the form of a tunnelled option, as recommended in the economic reports we commissioned Volterra Partners and BOP Consulting to prepare. The Government has indicated that it is open for ideas about developing a more sustainable option, and we are committed to working with likeminded organisations such as Transport for London and Greengage 21 to help establish a better solution in the longer term.

Secondly, we are encouraged that with the decision to drop the link came with the Government's intention to remove the safeguarding protection from that section of the route. This was a particular concern for Camden Town Unlimited because of the impact safeguarding measures could have had on businesses confidence, potentially leading to falling levels of investment and, with that, employment. We're therefore very pleased that Camden's companies are now unshackled and can continue to grow and innovate.

Finally, we want to continue our campaign to make Camden a better place to live, work and visit. To us, the redevelopment of Euston Station would boost jobs and revenue locally and represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Camden and the wider UK. We have seen how this can be done properly, with the redevelopment of King's Cross and St. Pancras leading to significant regeneration. Our suggestion is: with HS2 going ahead, let's continue the process of revitalisation and ensure that it serves the local community, commuters and tourists as best it can. As the High Speed Rail Bill continues its forward passage through Parliament, this is an issue that we will petition on at the Select Committee stage.