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HS2: Promised public garden is just ‘an insignificant patch’

Objectors say green space replacing land taken by HS2 is unusable

05 September, 2019 — By Tom Foot

How the new skills centre could look

A PUBLIC garden due to replace green space bulldozed by HS2 has been reduced to an “insignificant” and “unusable” patch of land in designs due to be approved by the Town Hall.

A planning application to redevelop the Maria Fidelis secondary school site in North Gower Street, west Euston, has been submitted “on behalf of landowner London Continental Railways and Camden Council”.

The plans include a two-storey training centre for HS2 project construction workers, a community hall and “an element of public open space”. The proposed green space does not reflect projections put to the community last year, residents have warned.

In an objection, Anna Stokes, secretary of Drummond Street Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said: “The plans submitted are to reduce ‘green space’ originally going to be returned to the community. Instead, all that is being provided is an insignificant patch that is unusable for the public.”

She added: “This community, greatly affected by HS2, was led to believe that the site would become a green space, according to the Euston Area Plan. This is now not the case, and a large footprint has been planned for a two-storey construction centre that will impact even further on those that live close to this site, and that are already dealing with the inescapable build of HS2.”

The Euston Area Plan – a planning brief including the 57-acre HS2 construction zone – states its “key priorities include the provision of a replacement public open space” on the Maria Fidelis site. Earlier designs suggested a separate park would be created next to the construction centre to “mitigate” the loss of St James Gardens, which has already been bulldozed, and Euston Square Gardens. However, the application says there will now only be “an element of temporary public open space” that “wraps around the buildings to the southern part of the site”.

The £4million Construction Skills Centre was a major plank of settlements won by the council during negotiations with the Department for Transport and HS2 before the project was approved by MPs in Parliament.

Maria Fidelis School was relocated to new premises in Somers Town in April. The planning application says a community hall would be built on the site and that 20 trees will have to be cut down, despite nine having an estimated life of another 40 years.

HS2 Ltd, which is in charge of the overall railway project, has not raised any objections to the proposed scheme.

However, protests have come from several residents, including Kalvinder Kaur, who said: “I feel the area would be better served by having more green space, especially since the loss of St James Gardens. The noise and pollution from demolition in the surrounding area is already so bad.”

Another objector, Elena Kozenko, added: “Residents were told by Camden Council that Maria Fidelis would be replaced by a green space. As we have already experienced that promises weren’t kept, I doubt they will be kept in the future.”

Another objector said: “This is ridiculous. This was supposed to be green space for the community. It should be something useful. “This has to be the most silly thing I’ve heard.”

There were also concerns that a community hall could be rented out by “evangelical groups” who would use it for “music/screaming” which would “make life absolutely miserable” for residents nearby.

St Pancras Parish Church has objected, saying: “There is a long history of planning application in this area showing extensive trees, greenery and landscaping – only for those never to appear.”

The application adds: “Given that the public open space will be provided for a period of circa 10 years and therefore the proposals are not permanent in nature, the development team are proposing to use currently stored landscape materials from St James Gardens to landscape the space.”

St James Gardens has been dug up, with archaeologists moving tens of thousands of human remains out of the former burial ground.

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