Company obliged to return the land on completion of work in 2024
Anti-HS2 poster Wormwood Scrubs
Wormwood Scrubs has been dealt a “shocking” blow as sections of the park have been bought by HS2.
Parts of the West London park will be shut to the public until 2024 as building works take place on the high speed rail line.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps gave permission for work to begin on the £1.6bn project for the Old Oak Common Station on 23 June.
The move is a huge blow to nature lovers in the area who admire the park’s common lizards and the wide range of birds that visit the meadows.
The council and trust will not be able to stop the purchase of the land due to the HS2 Act 2017 which allows the project to buy up land to complete the project before selling it back.
An area of woodlands neighbouring the station depot and a section of the park next to Old Oak Common Lane would both be used to help construct the HS2 project.
Chair of the Friends of Wormwood Scrubs Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen expressed his shock at HS2’s purchase of the land.
He said in a statement, “The only redeeming element is we were informed when they have finished work, they will be obliged to return the land to the Trust.
“LBHF are consulting specialist legal experts. We don’t know any more yet, but will share it as soon as we do.”
The rail project will take over the Stamford Brook sewer site from Thames Water if they can reach an agreement with the water company.
The Station is hoped to have 250,000 people pass through each day and it is anticipated trains will be able to travel to Birmingham in just 52 minutes and to Manchester in just over an hour.
Old Oak Common Station will also serve Crossrail and other mainline routes once it has been built. HS2 says the construction work will support 2,300 jobs.
The project is set to become the UK’s largest station built in a single stage and will have six HS2 platforms taking passengers from London to the Midlands, Newcastle and Glasgow. The roof will be the size of at least three football pitches.
If the HS2 work goes to plan, sections of the park will be out of use until 2024. They will then be given back to the public until 2028 when more scheduled work will take place.
Wormwood Scrubs charitable trust committee chair and Old Oak councillor Alexandra Sanderson said, “We are deeply concerned about this development and are seeking professional advice about the options available to us.”
The committee shares management of the open space with Hammersmith and Fulham council. HS2 told the borough that once their work is finished they will return the land to the trust.
The Friends of Wormwood Scrubs campaign group said it was “vehemently opposed” to the nature reserve being snapped up with a compulsory purchase order.
Faye Thomas from the Friends of Wormwood Scrubs said, “It’s a very popular beauty spot and was protected in perpetuity 140 years ago by an act of Parliament.
“It’s a natural spot, which is quite unusual in London. There are common lizards and is a major migrating site. If birds can’t nest, they can’t breed.”
Campaigners are unhappy with HS2 work on Wormwood Scrubs
Ms Thomas added that she was “concerned about the ecological impact” of development on the site.
She said, “Their powers run to February 2022 but the Secretary of State can extend it. Will they give it back?”
Hammersmith and Fulham council told the Local Democracy Reporting Service, “We’re very disappointed that HS2’s disruptive works on Wormwood Scrubs may extend beyond February 2022.
“Although an Act of Parliament appears to permit such a [compulsory purchase order], we’re deeply concerned. We’re seeking advice on our options and we’ll provide an update to residents shortly.”
David Mitchelhill, who lives near the Scrubs said, “This area is much loved and during lockdown it has been used a lot.”
It has also been a much loved spot for birdwatchers, picnics, football and flying model aeroplanes as well as dog walking.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting service that he did not think he would be using HS2.
Emma Ranson who is a garden designer said she was concerned that a compulsory purchase order could see “more land opened up for better access to the station.”
Across the other side of the railway tracks, residents in Wells House Road are fed up with the noise and disruption from the building work.
Amanda Souter, who is a market researcher, said, “It’s a living hell. My street is stuck for the next decade in the centre of the biggest construction site in the UK as they are building the biggest station in the UK.”
Ms Souter has had problems with her lungs and believes it may have been caused by pollution from the building site.
She added that “most of us will be dead by the time it opens,” so will not benefit from speedier rail links to the rest of the country. “We can’t even sell our homes, they are worth nothing.”
View of Old Oak Common station building site on HS2 site from Wells House Road
And Toby Johnson said, “It’s removed so much from our lives. The pollution is bad. The road by it has traffic jams daily.”
Paul Allison, a local who moved near the site of the Old Oak Common station in 2015, said he has sympathy for residents who lived in a nice pleasant road and then had HS2 built down the road from them. Many families have lived there for generations.
“The impact for residents living here is really hard,” he said. He said he might use the station for its links to central London or Heathrow, and said eventually the area will change with more amenities.
But he pointed out that many of his neighbours are elderly and do not want to experience disruption.
Paul Allison, who lives near Old Oak Common station building site on HS2 site
Alex Kaye who also lives in the street said: “I do not think it Old Oak Common station is necessary.
“I just can’t see why we have got this when they are already running Euston station. It’s unnecessary.”
He added: “There will be no benefit and I will not use the station. I wonder why they put the terminus here.”
“This is just a small part of what’s been happening all the way down the line.”
An HS2 spokeswoman said, “HS2 currently has temporary legal possession of a small area of Wormwood Scrubs for utilities diversion and is arranging to compulsorily purchase sufficient land to ensure utilities companies have legal protection for their assets while works elsewhere are completed.”
She added that land from Wormwood Scrubs would be returned once works had been completed, and noted that HS2 had set aside £3.9m for restoration of the site.
HS2 plans to open the route from Old Oak Common to Birmingham between 2030 and 2033, with six trains an hour running on the line.
Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporter
August 4, 2021