To much fanfare, and a considerable amount of protest, the HS2 Hybrid Bill was published on Monday morning alongside an environmental report, which the public are allowed to scrutinise and respond to over the next eight weeks.
A Hybrid Bill is a rare piece of legislation - so called because it affects the government and some private individuals such as landowners. We needed one for the Channel Tunnel link back in 1986, and more recently for the Crossrail project. This particular Bill is something of a behemoth. The Bill itself numbers 400 pages, with a colossal 50,000 page environmental impact assessment to accompany it. It's proof of its extraordinary length that the Parliamentary authorities have had to change the law and allowed the Bill to be delivered electronically rather than in hard copy - or it would have needed a van.*
Within those 50,000 pages lies the future of Camden Town. Every single road closure, bridge widening and business affected is supposed to be taken into consideration within the report. It's why it's so big. However, we don't think they've taken the impact on Camden seriously enough. Or understood the nature of Camden's unique culture and heritage. The impact report suggests that only 130 jobs would be permanently lost in Camden as a result of HS2. We've commissioned independent research that shows the impact could be thousands more than this. The impact on Camden's creative economy alone could potentially mean the loss of 9,100 jobs, at a cost of £631million to the local economy, with the nature of Camden permanently changing.
The environmental assessment makes passing reference to shutting down market stalls for weeks at a time in the Bill - with a 'negligible' impact on the local area. But this isn't like temporarily shutting a Morrisons or a Sainsbury's. These are small traders who rely on customers coming to their stalls week in and week out to stay afloat. Traders have told us about the devastating impact weekend tube closures had on their businesses - to have months of construction works affecting their stalls could mean they are forced to either move out or shut down. Bridge widening. Road closures. Construction sites and scaffolding. Noise levels rising to 85 decibels (the sound of a propeller plane flying overhead). It's hard to imagine that this will have a 'negligible' impact on Camden, on tourism, and on the local economy.
We've been arguing that HS2 should build the link to HS1 underground, instead of ripping through the heart of Camden. We're disappointed to say that the Government has rejected this proposal in the Bill as it currently stands. But we're going to keep on arguing our case. We think that Camden is too unique and too precious- both to tourists and Londoners alike - to lose it to a new railway line. We remain absolutely committed to working with Government and with HS2 throughout this process. We're not nimbys. We believe in progress. We're all for the lovely folk of Birmingham being able to get down to London and enjoy the sights and sounds of Camden Town more quickly. But we're not going to lose our community, our creative industries and our cultural heritage without a fight.
*It should be noted that HS2 spokespeople have strongly denied that the Bill weighs 'a tonne'. They estimate that it merely contains approximately 300kgs worth of paper