HS2 must prove that their 'Euston Approaches' design is not dangerous

by Hero Granger-Taylor

HS2 must prove that their 'Euston Approaches' design is not dangerous

by Hero Granger-Taylor
Hero Granger-Taylor
Case Owner
I have lived all my life in Park Village East. Opposite my house is the Camden Cutting, leading to Euston. Major uncertainties over the current HS2 design make life for residents very stressful.
18
days to go
£8,040
pledged of £21,500 stretch target from 101 pledges
Pledge now
Hero Granger-Taylor
Case Owner
I have lived all my life in Park Village East. Opposite my house is the Camden Cutting, leading to Euston. Major uncertainties over the current HS2 design make life for residents very stressful.
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: Dec. 14, 2019

Returning to urgent fundraising to cover hearing on 16 January

I am returning to urgent fundraising to cover the cost of the oral hearing of my renewed Judicial Review permission application, due to take place on 16 January 2020 

We heard on 27 November 20...

Read more

We have reached the first target of £7,500. Many, many thanks to all the individuals and groups who have given money, and to all the people who have circulated information about my appeal.    

The money raised so far will be enough to cover my lawyers' fees in making the first part of the Judicial Review claim, the application for permission to bring forward a substantive claim. 

This initial application can be granted or refused. Since we feel our case is strong, we are hopeful that we shall be given permission to make the substantive claim. 

If we succeed in the initial stage, we shall at that point send out a new appeal for donations, for the remaining £14,000 of the 'stretch target'. This additional money would be to cover the costs of the actual hearing. 

If our initial application is turned down, something that often happens apparently, we would be able to appeal the decision. But appealing would mean entering into a longer process, and we would have to think carefully before carrying on.  

Currently we have no idea about a timetable. I'll add an update to the site when this becomes clearer.

"There is evidence that the proposed scheme poses a serious risk of loss of life and of causing great damage to properties in the area."

The enormous HS2 infrastructure project is threatening the safety and security of thousands of people, could damage historic buildings, and is literally shaking communities across the country to their foundation. 

I'm taking legal action to force HS2 Ltd to hand over information about the impact of their activity on our community in North London.

The Judicial Review I and my solicitor will request will be to challenge the decision by HS2 Ltd not to provide me with sufficient information to allow me and my advisers to assess how the latest design for the HS2 railway will affect me and my Human Rights. 

HS2 Ltd must be held to account and produce the information that has the potential to have such a negative effect on my community. So far I have taken them on myself but now I need your help. Please contribute now and share this page with your friends, family and on social media.

Case Background

In March 2017, just after the HS2 bill had been passed, HS2 Ltd announced a major change to the design of the proposed HS2 railway as it comes through the Euston Approaches, just north of Euston station. Since that time I and others have been trying hard to get full details of this new design, so that we can assess its environmental effects and its effects on the stability our homes. The new design moves the HS2 tracks to a lower level, into three tunnels and a vast cavern. Instead of being restricted to the Camden Cutting, the new design covers a larger area, with two of the tunnels passing under the early 20th century Park Village East retaining wall and coming close below some of the Grade II* listed houses, part of John Nash's scheme for Regent's Park. 

The change of design worries me particularly because I am old enough to remember a long period of repairs to the retaining wall carried out in the 1960s. I have also seen documents which confirm that the wall had had to undergo fundamental repairs as early as 1920. 

In April 2013, HS2 Ltd wrote to the residents of Park Village East: “Our engineers are aware that the retaining wall between the railway and Park Village East has suffered over time from movement and damage... The replacement of this wall ... should address these historic subsidence issues”.

The new design announced in 2017 however, unlike previous designs put forward by HS2 Ltd, does not include rebuilding the retaining wall. Furthermore, if the tunnels are constructed, there will be no possibility of rebuilding the wall at a later date. 

An expert report originally written for the Camden Civic Society by Colin Elliff BSc CEng MICE  explains how the creation of tunnels actually under the retaining wall will make the wall itself even more unstable. His report states: 

“HS2 Ltd has released only a limited number of documents showing the 2017 Three Tunnels design and this has made it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. However, even in this limited documentation, both the size of the proposed underground structures and their proximity to existing structures are readily apparent, and there is a clear risk of catastrophic collapse, both during construction, and also afterwards. To date HS2 Ltd has offered no credible information to explain how this underground structure can be efficiently and safely constructed.

“In general, particular aspects of the 2017 Three Tunnels design so far disclosed by HS2 Ltd carry an unacceptable level of risk of settlement and collapse. It is very difficult to see how the risk can be safely mitigated simply by applying any level of best practice in construction.

“The parallel alignment of retaining wall and tunnel raises the very obvious risk that the concentrated deadweight of the retaining wall – estimated at 130 tonnes per metre – immediately above will cause the tunnel below to simply collapse with catastrophic consequences.

“There is a range of disaster scenarios ranging from the tunnel boring machine becoming trapped underground, to the total structural collapse of the retaining wall into the tunnel. In the worst case this could be a catastrophic collapse which, as well as having a disastrous effect on the infrastructure, could put the personal safety of hundreds of rail travellers and residents at risk.”

My solicitor, Jayesh Kunwardia, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, has written: “We have made repeated requests for information from HS2 Ltd about the current design, but nothing new has been forthcoming. There is evidence that the proposed scheme poses a serious risk of loss of life and of causing great damage to properties in the area. It is unacceptable that HS2 Ltd have not given us sight of a complete set of documents and Ms Granger-Taylor is left with no other choice but to take HS2 to court.”

Our case

The most recent letter written by my solicitor to HS2 Ltd, as well as asking again for various drawings and studies directly relevant to me and my home, requests assurances from HS2 Ltd that they have assessed whether the construction work they are planning infringes my right to private life and home, and my right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions (Article 8 and Article 1 Protocol 1). 

If these documents and assurances are not provided to us by 10th July, and our experience up to now makes us think it very unlikely that they will be, we intend to begin Judicial Review proceedings. 

The decision we will ask to be reviewed in the JR process is the decision by HS2 Ltd not to provide the information we have requested. If our application to the court is successful, HS2 Ltd will be obliged to publish full details of their current design as well as to publish any Environmental Impact Assessments they have completed. If they have not done an up-to-date Environmental Impact Assessment, based around the new design, they will be obliged to undertake one. 

All these different kinds of information will be very helpful to me and to my neighbours, and to residents and businesses in the broader Euston area. If, when published, it becomes clear that the current design for bringing HS2 trains to Euston is not workable, the viability of the larger HS2 project will be called into question. At the least, the line between Old Oak Common and Euston would need to be very differently designed, and the start of construction work delayed long enough to allow this to happen. 

The amount I am hoping to raise 

Costs so far have been covered by me and by my solicitors. Mr Elliff has given his time pro bono. The sum of £7,500 I am hoping now to raise from donations is to cover the cost of preparing the initial Judicial Review claim. If the figure of £7,500 is not reached, donations made below that total will be returned to donors. 

The further estimated 'stretch' sum of £14,500 would be to cover the cost of the court proceedings, if we are given permission to go ahead with our claim.

Recent contributions

Be a promoter

Your share on Facebook could raise £26 for the case

I'll share on Facebook
Update 5

Hero Granger-Taylor

Dec. 14, 2019

Returning to urgent fundraising to cover hearing on 16 January

I am returning to urgent fundraising to cover the cost of the oral hearing of my renewed Judicial Review permission application, due to take place on 16 January 2020 

We heard on 27 November 2019 that my initial claim for Judicial Review, made on 14 October 2019, had been turned down. We were able to renew the claim, and did so on 5 December 2019. We have just heard, on 11 December 2019, that the renewal application will be considered at an oral hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London, on 16 January 2019 (the time of day will not be decided until the day before).

The oral hearing will unfortunately involve considerably further expense, not least because of the need to prepare additional documents. So today I am reopening my appeal, with the aim of reaching my current stretch target of £21,500 (the £7,500 of this which has already been raised was used up when first preparing my case). 

The decision of Mr Justice Holgate, Planning Liaison Judge, to turn down the first application was made on the basis of the paper documents submitted. Judicial Review claims are currently being rejected at this initial stage at a rate of four out of five, so the fact that mine met the same fate was not altogether surprising.

But other signs have been positive: my claim has been designated as ‘significant’, it has been assigned to the specialist Planning section of the High Court, and the wait between the renewal application and the oral hearing is only five weeks, despite Christmas.

I am writing this on the 14 December 2019, two days after the election, and it is true that, in their manifesto and in remarks made by Boris Johnson, the Conservatives can be interpreted as being distinctly cool on HS2. So the whole HS2 project might now be cancelled or the link between Old Oak Common and Euston might be dropped. But the Government cannot make a decision until they have had the opportunity of to consider thoroughly both the Oakervee report and the ‘dissident’ report due from Lord Berkeley, and this might not be for some time.

Meanwhile, I feel it is important to continue with my case, to show how very unrealistic and dangerous the engineering of this part of the line is and that, by implication, how the design of HS2 overall must remain very questionable. It is still my position that there is not room to bring HS2 through the Euston Approaches as a high speed line in addition to the classic lines already occupying the whole of the Camden Cutting.

All contributions to my case via this CrowdJustice page will be most gratefully received.

More details of the legal aspects of my case. 

Most importantly, we have good evidence to counter the principal reason for Mr Justice Holgate’s initial refusal, given as ‘the Claimant has suitable alternative remedies available to her’. His view appears to be based in particular on a statement in HS2 Ltd’s Summary Grounds of Resistance: ‘There are a number of features of the Phase 1 scheme within the Euston Approaches which will require Schedule 17 consents’. (For an explanation of Schedule 17, please see below again.)

The most important point we can make in response is to draw attention again to the fact that HS2 Ltd have already admitted in a Freedom of Information reply that any Schedule 17 application to Camden will not cover details of the design which are underground, while my main concern are the tunnels which HS2 Ltd propose to build. The second point is that there is still no sign of an imminent Schedule 17 application in relation to the Three Tunnels design. ‘Main Works’ construction is now due to start in April 2020. Residents of my street, Park Village East, have just learnt that this work will kick off with the insertion under our houses of a battery of ground anchors at a shallow angle and at a rate of two per meter. During the parliamentary process, it was admitted in principle that ground anchors would cause damage to our houses. This is in addition to the major danger identified in Colin Elliff’s report, the construction of the three tunnels themselves, the key element in my ‘grounds’.

The other remedy which Mr Justice Holgate probably had in mind is an appeal to the Information Commissioner. I did in fact pass all the requests for documents which HS2 Ltd have refused to supply over to the Information Commissioner's Office in July this year. But I had to wait until 1 November 2019 to hear that my appeal had been assigned to an officer there and I have not yet been given a deadline even for her initial response.

Clearly the ICO route would be far too slow as a way to obtain documents showing the environmental and other effects of HS2 work due to start in less than six months. (Another campaigner, Dr Paul Thornton, who had first made a Freedom of Information request to HS2 Ltd in April 2017, after repeated refusals, finally obtained the document he had been seeking when the ICO Tribunal heard his case last month. In this instance it had been worth waiting two and half years because the document eventually released by HS2 Ltd, their report made in the spring of spring 2016 to the Department for Transport on the subject of reducing cost overruns, includes a list of the parts of HS2 scheme which they had redesigned to be cheaper. Among these is the change to the design for the Euston Approaches from the previous AP3 design to the current Three Tunnels design. We now know that this change was made at least partly to save money.)

Lastly, Mr Justice Holgate, while apparently referring to the above planning procedural arguments, does not give any reason in his very short refusal document for dismissing aspects of my case which are based on Human Rights law. My lawyers, solicitor Jayesh Kunwardia of Hodge Jones and Allen and barrister Christopher Jacobs, continue to believe my case is strong on these.

A short explanation of Schedule 17. 

The 2017 High Speed Rail (London– West Midlands) Act itself grants outline planning consent for HS2 Phase 1 but HS2 Ltd must apply under Schedule 17 to the relevant local authority for approval of certain design details. HS2 Ltd’s statement above might have given Mr Justice Holgate the impression that there will be public consultation on all the questionable aspects of the Three Tunnels design when a Schedule 17 application for this design is eventually submitted to Camden. But in reality there are very tight restrictions on what Schedule 17 can cover. HS2 Ltd’s own acceptance of the limits of Schedule 17 can be seen in other papers already submitted in my ‘bundle’, in particular the response dated 8 August 2018 to a Freedom of Information request made by me on behalf of the Camden Civic Society. Here, in answer to my question ‘When will the [Three Tunnels] design be released for public consultation?’, HS2 Ltd have answered ‘the developments referred to .. are a refinement of the design .. and are within the limits of the Act. Therefore there will not be a public consultation on the refinement.’ They add only that ‘There will be engagement on the architectural treatment of the above ground structures

Hero Granger-Taylor 14.12.2019



Update 4

Hero Granger-Taylor

Oct. 14, 2019

Judicial Review claim submitted today

I am not sure quite how it has taken us a further four weeks to get to this point, but all involved have worked hard to put together a 'bundle' which is not too long or too dull, but on solid grounds and sufficiently factual. We are satisfied with the result and now must wait three to four months for the judge who receives it in chamber to decide whether my case can go through to a court hearing.  

Our 'grounds' rest on the failure of HS2 Ltd to provide the information which would allow an independent assessment of the extent to which their scheme for the Euston Approaches is dangerous. It is therefore just possible that, faced with an actual claim against them, HS2 Ltd will turn around and provide the information I and then my solicitors have been requesting for so long. But on present form this is unlikely. 

My fundraising remains paused, but will reopen in due course (I shall post an updated estimate shortly).  


 

   

Update 3

Hero Granger-Taylor

Sept. 11, 2019

Putting the finishing touches to the first stage of my JR claim

Once again, many thanks to everyone who has contributed to my campaign. After a pause, using the money raised so far we are now putting the finishing touches to the first stage of my Judicial Review claim, the application to bring forward a substantive claim. We are on course to submit this next week, on 18 September.

Over the five weeks since my last update, I and my solicitor, Jayesh Kunwardia of Hodge Jones and Allen, have tried to obtain a geotechnical memorandum to add to the report which forms the basis of my claim, that by the specialist railways civil engineer Colin Elliff. Our idea was, since Colin Elliff's report is concerned with railway construction matters, to commission a short document to show how the risks he identifies would affect me and my house in particular. 

Unfortunately, so far we have not been able to find a geotechnical engineer who would charge proportionately: no doubt many specialist engineers are already working in some way for HS2 Ltd or are unwilling to add their name to a case against them

Fortunately, in the meantime, I rediscovered some documents from 2013 where HS2 Ltd themselves referred to the instability of the existing retaining wall (see photo above) - at that date they were still proposing to rebuild the wall. For example, in a letter addressed to me in person they wrote: "Our engineers are aware that the retaining wall between the railway and Park Village East has suffered over time from movement and damage, which we understand has been a cause for concern for residents. The replacement of this wall using modern construction techniques to minimise ground settlement should address these historic subsidence issues, and so overall would be beneficial for local residents. 

The current design for the Euston Approaches, about which HS2 Ltd are still refusing to provide adequate information, proposes not only to leave this old retaining wall in place but also to excavate two large tunnels almost immediately below. These tunnels would add greatly to the potential impact on the nearby houses - one scenario covered by Colin Elliff is the collapse of the wall into a tunnel beneath it. Furthermore, even if the construction of the tunnels were successfully completed, it would become impossible afterwards to rebuild the existing retaining wall. 

In short, HS2 Ltd's documents from 2013 establish the connection between the wall and the stability of my house and make a geotechnical memorandum less urgent.

HS2 has been much in the news over recent weeks. Most relevant to my case is the statement made by the new Secretary of State, Grant Shapps, on 3 September. This drew on a 'stocktake' document written by the HS2 Ltd chair, Allan Cook: on timing, Cook "recommends 2028 to 2031 for Phase One - with a staged opening, starting with initial services between London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street, followed by services to and from London Euston later."  This sentence is ambiguous and could be taken to mean a delay considerably longer than 2031 for HS2 at Euston. But there still seems no immediate possibility of this part of the line being cancelled outright.

As long as the current design for the Euston Approaches is still on the books, I shall continue with my Judicial Review claim. The immediate aim of my action is to get HS2 Ltd to produce the full details of this, so that I and others in my neighbourhood can assess its impact on us. But it also remains my belief that there is no feasible way of building a new high speed railway line through the Euston Approaches. If this is correct, the sooner this can be publicly established the better.




   

     

   


 

Update 2

Hero Granger-Taylor

Aug. 2, 2019

First target reached!

We have reached the first target of £7,500. Many, many thanks to all the individuals and groups who have given money, and to all the people who have circulated information about my appeal.    

The money raised so far will be enough to cover my lawyers' fees in making the first part of the Judicial Review claim, the application for permission to bring forward a substantive claim. 

This initial application can be granted or refused. Since we feel our case is strong, we are hopeful that we shall be given permission to make the substantive claim. 

If we succeed in the initial stage, we shall at that point send out a new appeal for donations, for the remaining £14,000 of the 'stretch target'. This additional money would be to cover the costs of the actual hearing. 

If our initial application is turned down, something that often happens apparently, we would be able to appeal the decision. But appealing would mean entering into a longer process, and we would have to think carefully before carrying on.  

Currently we have no idea about a timetable. I'll add an update to the site when this becomes clearer.


Update 1

Hero Granger-Taylor

July 12, 2019

Solicitors instructed to proceed to Judicial Review application

On 10th July, we received back from the Government Legal Department a response to our 'pre-action protocol letter'. But none of the hard information we had asked for was included. The letter itself also contained the admission that they had undertaken no risk assessment of the Park Village East retaining wall. And it confirmed that they had done no Environmental Impact Assessment for the Euston and Camden Cutting area since the bill was enacted in 2017, in other words they have done no EIA for the current design for the Euston Approaches, even though this is so different from the earlier AP3 and 'bill' designs.  

The response is wholly inadequate so I have instructed my solicitor, Jayesh Kunwardia of Hodge Jones and Allen, to proceed with the application for Judicial Review. So we are on track to force HS2 Ltd to get the whole of their very dubious Euston Approaches design properly studied! 

    There are no public comments on this case page.