HS2 Ltd refuses to clarify safety of unapproved construction which poses “catastrophic” threat to human life and property, claims resident
A homeowner is taking legal action against HS2 Ltd for its ‘Three Tunnels’ design into Euston, claiming that it will endanger the lives and properties of residents near to the ‘Approaches’ to the station.
Hero Granger-Taylor, 65, who brings the case against HS2 Ltd, first made a claim for judicial review on 14 October 2019 after she had received an engineer’s report that revealed planned tunnels close to her home could cause a huge 10-metre high, 120-year-old wall to collapse into the new tunnels below or onto the existing West Coast main line. The collapse of such a structure could be “catastrophic” and risk “the personal safety of hundreds of rail travellers and residents”, according to chartered civil engineer Colin Elliff, author of the report.
The Three Tunnels design for HS2 in the Euston Approaches is not formally approved. The design approved by Parliament in 2017 included train tracks inside an open box within the Camden Cutting, but that design was dropped once permission had been granted. It was replaced by the current design for tracks to run underground in three nine metre diameter tunnels, beneath an historic area of Camden, North London.
Diagrams that Ms Granger-Taylor has seen reveal the closest tunnel would run in line with the retaining wall above and be as little as one and half metres below its foundations. Mr Elliff’s recommendation is that a far greater gap should be left between a tunnel and such a structure.
The renewed case brought by Ms Granger-Taylor focuses on Schedule 17 of the 2017 HS2 Act, which sets out the conditions of the deemed planning permission upon which the HS2 project relies. Schedule 17 puts in place a process for the approval by the relevant local authority of certain details including the visual appearance of above-ground buildings and routes for construction lorries.
Ms Granger-Taylor and her solicitors, Hodge Jones & Allen, argue that the Three Tunnels design falls into a planning black hole because it postdates the HS2 Act yet is not covered by the Schedule 17 regime. It is their opinion that planning consent, and the safety and structural guidelines incorporated as part of that granted consent, are absent.
Despite repeated requests for clarity from Ms Granger-Taylor and her solicitor over the structural integrity and safety of the Three Tunnels design, HS2 Ltd has refused to disclose any detailed drawings, any risk assessments or any settlement estimates which relate to it. As far as can be ascertained, HS2 Ltd have not carried out an environmental impact assessment covering this new design.
HS2 Ltd has also failed to provide documentation to Ms Granger-Taylor and neighbouring residents proving that assessments have been made to avoid the breach of Articles 1 and 8 of the Human Rights Act (protection of property and the right to life) and of Article 1 Protocol 1 of the European Court of Human Rights.
Ms Granger-Taylor, who lives half a mile from Euston Station, the intended terminus for HS2, said: “As residents, we have had no reassurance from HS2 Ltd that their Three Tunnels design, which is not Parliament-approved, will not endanger the lives and properties of those living close to the proposed tunnels. There is also a risk to life if the wall, undermined by the tunnelling, falls into the cutting, either directly onto a train or causing a derailment.
“I find it hard to believe that HS2 Ltd, the owners of this multi-billion pound project, which has been such a beacon for governments since 2010, chooses to refuse to reassure those directly affected by its construction that it adheres to the utmost considerations regarding structural safety and risk to life. I have been asking for information since 2017 and the repeated refusal to provide any clarity is baffling and a real cause for concern. You have to ask what they have to hide and how many other people have been affected by this obfuscation.
“It has been a constant source of stress to me that HS2 Ltd refuses to provide the information that local residents and myself urgently need to see.”
Jayesh Kunwardia, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, who is representing Ms Granger-Taylor, said: “We have renewed our claim for a judicial review into the Three Tunnels design because HS2 Ltd has repeatedly refused to provide my client with key documents to offer assurances to the protection of life and property. A formal request made in July 2019 to the Information Commissioner has not yet been responded to formally, leaving insufficient time for Ms Granger-Taylor and local residents to raise concerns with HS2 and Camden Council via an alternative channel.
“We have evidence that the Three Tunnels design carries the risk of endangering the lives of hundreds of people. It is in commuters’ best interests, local residents’ best interests and, above all, HS2’s best interests, that it clarifies the safety precautions to be undertaken in constructing the tunnel network.”
The renewal hearing for permission for a judicial review will take place in the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 16 January 2020. Counsel for Ms Granger-Taylor is Christopher Jacobs at Landmark Chambers.
Ms Granger-Taylor is attempting to fund the judicial review challenge through Crowd Justice. Donations can be made at https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/hs2accountability/