Speak to almost anyone who lives in London and they will have fond memories of Camden Town. Walking through the markets on a Saturday; marvelling at the unique stalls and things for sale, sitting by the lock in the summertime with a cold beer; dancing in the clubs as a teenager: everyone has a Camden story. It's these stories that mean Camden Town has always been at the heart of London's creative community. Home to artists, musicians and some of the most innovative businesses in the UK, Camden has a unique spirit that fosters creativity and encourages entrepreneurship. But it's under threat.
Much has been made of the HS2 route, and the effect it will have on the countryside. The argument rages on both sides over whether we need to grow our country's infrastructure or to save money on expensive projects now. As CEO of Camden Town Unlimited, which represents businesses in Camden, I welcome HS2. Investing in the future of this country is vital, and improvements to our transport should be welcomed. However, not at the cost of Camden.
To explain, HS2 needs to link up to our existing high speed rail line that takes us to France. The current proposal for this would mean a link that cuts directly through the heart of Camden Town: a proposed route that would cause a decade of destruction, and could ultimately mean the death of one of the UK's most vibrant and creative communities.
We've commissioned research on the impact of the proposed rail line, and the current route would be disastrous to Camden Town. It's expected that the whole of Hawley Market will fall within the construction area. 90% of Camden Lock market falls within 30 meters of site, as does 95% of Stables market. Hawley market would effectively be closed, with other iconic markets devastated by the project.
By tearing through the markets, and forcing the closure of shops, bars and clubs, the cost to Camden's economy could be as much as £631m, with over 9,000 jobs lost. Stables Market would lose £39m. Camden Lock £24m. Hawley Market £22m. The traders that work in these markets can't take this kind of financial penalty. They are not huge multinational firms with millions in reserve - they are small businesses and sole traders that rely on the footfall of Camden's bustling markets to make a living. And when they're gone, the Camden we know and love; the Camden that attracts firms like ASOS, MAC and MTV; the Camden that inspired musicians from Kirsty MacColl and Prince to Madonna and Amy Winehouse; will be forever changed.
It's Camden Town's vibrant creative economy which attracts businesses, people and tourists to the area. The economic impact of the current HS2 link will have a devastating effect on this, with huge job losses and a massive blow to the area's economy. The majority of affected businesses in Camden Town fall outside of the 30 meter area that is at the centre of the proposed rail link, meaning that they would not be covered under the Land Compensation Act and wouldn't get compensation for the damage. The direct effects of the currently proposed link are expected to last for a decade.
It's not all doom and gloom though. There's a very simple solution to this problem. Instead of having the link overground, we can simply build it underground instead. Expanding the tunnel that's already being built from Old Oak to Primrose Hill another two km will connect it directly with HS1, providing greater capacity for the high speed service in the future, and dramatically reducing any negative impact on Camden Town.
We are committed to working with Government and HS2 to make sure that any impact to Camden Town from the rail link is kept to an absolute minimum. We're not saying "not in my backyard", we just want to safeguard Camden Town's position at the heart of London's creative community, and protect the jobs and businesses that depend on it.