Those people opposed to HS2 are having a sorry time of it right now. With their numbers depleted by evictions, arrests, bail conditions and injunctions, along with their collapse on the political front, they don’t have much to crow about. That that they let that stop them of course! HS2Rebellion still pump out the sort of ridiculous propaganda about ‘winning’ that would make ‘Comical Ali’ blush.
Of course, the reality is rather different. Whilst HS2 Ltd have noted in the board minutes that the protests escalated over the summer and have cost many millions of pounds of public money (enough to fund a new school) the delays they’ve caused are not significant. And now – the summer’s over…
How farcical the protests are was highlighted today. Remember that phase 1 of the HS2 railway that’s being built at the moment stretches over 140 miles from London to Birmingham – and a bit beyond. That’s a huge number of worksites and construction compounds, as well as areas of utility diversions, vegetation clearances, road widening schemes and the odd new motorway bridge! Arrayed against this are five ‘protection’ camps and a rag-bag of a few dozen protesters who come and go.
Today, the only protest involved 2 young women climbing aboard a wood-chipper that was being delivered on a low-loader to the HS2 site at Grims Ditch near Wendover. They boarded it on a public highway just before it entered a compound which is securely fenced so no no work on the site was stopped. In fact, two other protesters had been arrested earlier in the week for trying to prevent the fencing being built. They failed.
The dozen or so people ‘supporting’ the young girls by filming the escapade and livestreaming it to social media were very soon heavily outnumbered by the local constabulary and HS2 security. By 2.30pm today the police had safely removed the women, arrested them and taken them away to be charged – probably under Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 – and the wood chipper was delivered to the site unharmed.
So, what did the women achieve? Nothing, apart from getting arrested! The chipper might as well have been delayed in traffic! No work was stopped. Now the women will have bail conditions imposed which will prevent them from being involved again. They may even be banned from the country, depending on where they come from. It’s a kamikaze tactic and a complete waste of time, but that’s the anti HS2 campaign on the ground for you. It seems to be focused on phyrric victories that can be filmed for social media, but no-ones watching!
Here’s a screen-grab of the video filmed by serially failed Green Party candidate Mark Keir (who’s injuncted, banned from the protest at Harvil Rd/Denham and now facing a £3000 fine for ignoring the injunction!)
This was 90 minutes of tedium and daft polemics on the voice-over, although it did show what was happening. But wait – how big an audience did it draw? The eye symbol at the top gives it away. Just 38 people watched. That’s less than the combined total of police and Hs2 security staff attending!
This sort of stunt will stop Hs2? To quote a famous tennis player. ‘You cannot be serious’!
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The other day I was blogging about Joe Rukin and his StopHs2 group, remarking how little visibility they have now they’re redundant, then this pops up – but I’ll bet you won’t see it mentioned on their website!
Why? Because it’s yet another expensive legal fiasco!
Apparently, Rukin had filed for a Judicial Review of the Government’s decision to proceed with the High Speed 2 railway. There was just one teeny, tiny problem. He never offered a shred of evidence to back up his claim – as the court decision reveals.
Not only was no evidence produced, Rukin’s landed with a legal bill of £4234! Only he isn’t really, because – like all the other spurious and futile legal cases brought against HS2 over the years, this one has been funded by donations from gullible members of the public. Of course, the final bill will be much higher as this doesn’t account for monies paid to Rukin’s solicitors, so just how many thousands of pounds has been wasted in total is a good question.
Over the years, anti HS2 campaigners have wasted millions of pounds of other people’s money on these lost causes (including taxpayers, as the Government can’t claim damages). The only people who’ve benefitted are the legal profession, who’ve been happy to trouser the cash.
For many years the leaders in this field were the Chiltern Nimbys who called themselves the High-Speed 2 Action Alliance (HS2AA). They took out dozens of Judicial Reviews against HS2 back in the early 2010s. In 2012 they took out 10 and lost 9. Only the most minor judgement was upheld and it had no meaningful impact on the progress of the project. You can find details here. They tried (and failed) again in 2014, this time with Hillingdon Council.
Of course, HS2AA are history now, the group folded years ago. It was left to ‘celebrity’ environmentalist Chris Packham to pick up the challenge of wasting people’s money, which he duly did with his 2020 judicial review, along with his solicitors ‘Pay Day’ (don’t you mean Leigh Day? Ed). The ruling when it came was excoriating, sparing neither Packham nor his solicitors blushes. People’s money wasn’t spared either as Packham had raised the ackers to throw away through a crowdfunder which reached £140,000.
Of course, over the years we’ve heard lots of bluster from other anti HS2 groups threatening judicial reviews, none of which have materialised.
One that did was another 2020 failure by Camden Resident Hero Granger Taylor, which was also Crowdfunded.
Ironically, Rukin’s has been kept quiet, with no mention of it on the StopHs2 website, but then that’s probably no surprise as it was a woeful attempt that was doomed to failure as he couldn’t offer any evidence to back up his claims! I’ll bet his humiliation won’t get a mention either…
I almost feel sorry for the people who’ve been mugged for money by these campaign groups or people like Packham (trading on his celebrity). They’ve spaffed* hundreds of thousands of pounds up the wall. My ire is saved for the people who launch these futile cases, knowing that they can con the money out of people to fund them. I also take a dim view of the legal firms like ‘Pay Day’ (you mean Leigh Day! Ed) who’re quite happy to trouser the cash on the basis that they’re helping to ‘test’ the boundary’s of the law. I’ve yet to hear of them turning round to anyone to say “look folks, you’re wasting your money, you haven’t got a chance of success”
Hopefully, we’ll see people less keen to throw their money away on lawyers and futile attempts to stop Hs2 now – but I won’t hold my breath..
*copyright Boris Johnson
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I’m returning to an old topic to take a look at the state of play with the campaign to stop HS2. The Government’s announcement that HS2 was going ahead in its entirety and the obvious commitment and enthusiasm for the project from Prime Minister Johnson has really knocked the remaining wind out of the sails of those opposed to HS2.
The sole remaining national group (StopHs2) which in reality is just two people (Joe Rukin in Kenilworth and Penny Gaines in Bournemouth) is to all intent and purpose redundant. There’s no point to a political campaign to stop HS2 anymore as it’s painfully obvious there’s no support, exactly the opposite. Many of those who’ve opposed HS2 in the past have accepted the futility of continuing their opposition. A good example is former Minister Andrea Leadsom, the MP for South Northamptonshire, who recently Tweeted a video where she said her focus now is on getting the best deals for her constituents from HS2 Ltd.
With the collapse of the political element StopHs2 have sod all to report as they’re not actually doing anything themselves. Both they and what’s left of the ‘action group’ network are redundant. Many ‘action’ group members were elderly, middle-class homeowners worried about their house prices. They’re the last people you’re going to catch traipsing around muddy fields or chaining themselves to bulldozers. A few of them are still fulminating about HS2 on social media, but there’s been a noticeable drop-off there too.
Apart from tedious tweets about every time HS2 is (or isn’t) mentioned on ‘BBC Question Time’ or sending a stream of pointless commentary and spin about someone being questioned about HS2 in a Parliamentary Ctte Penny Gaines might as well not exist. Joe Rukin isn’t much better. His only usefulness now is in throwing his weight (resist the puns, Ed) behind those protesting on the ground at one of the handful of protest camps on Phase 1 although even those appearances are becoming fewer. It can’t be long now before StopHs2 finally folds as it’s completely redundant.
Nowadays most of the real running against HS2 is made by the mixed bag of people who gather under the ‘Extinction Rebellion’ banner and occasionally attend one of the protest camps on the Phase 1 route. These can be divided into three categories.
1. The ‘hardliners’: Those who spend their time living at one of the camps for at least several days. Most are self-employed. They return home every so often to do some work to top up their money supply. They fit the image of the ‘eco-warrior’ of old. Those of us who’re old enough and remember the days of the free-festivals and the ‘convoy’ will know exactly the type of people I mean. You have to admire their commitment but they are woefully misinformed about the issues. There’s a sociological study for someone’s PhD to be had here – and it would make really interesting reading!
2. Route Dwellers: Those who live on the route who have the time and inclination to protest and will turn up when they can. The vast majority seem to be middle-class women. Many seem to be using ‘green’ issues as a fig-leaf for Nimbyism. Most will have absolutely no history of concern for environmental issues before HS2 came along.
3. The ‘good timers’: These are a mix of people who’ll turn up to an organised event, especially if there’s a celebrity name behind it like Chris Packham, or those who’d turn up to the Harvil Rd camp of a weekend to party and get pissed/stoned before going home again. Both are equally useless at stopping HS2 as they don’t actually disrupt any construction activity. There’s one such event this weekend and it’ll be very interesting to see how many actually bother turning up.
What has been obvious from social media is that people haven’t exactly been queuing up to go as this shows.
Quite what this little gathering will achieve is open to question. They’ll have their little ramble, then go away – then HS2 will move in soon afterwards to begin work. Any protesters who remain in the area will be removed as HS2 has applied for a court order which will be heard next week on the 17th March. It names two people, Joe Rukin and Matthew Bishop, plus ‘persons unknown’. The order is to restrain future trespass, effectively making the named areas no-go areas to protesters and nipping any more protests in the bud as such actions will be illegal. This injunction will form a legal template for other areas.
Few of the protesters are willing to risk criminal convictions, so the injunctions will act as a huge deterrent, leaving the hardliners out on a limb. That number’s dwindling already as one of them, a woman called Sarah Green, has been noticeably absent from events of late. The number of people who fit into this group is less than a couple of dozen. Most noticeable are serially failed Green Party Candidate Mark Keir. Alan Woodward, Matthew Bishop, Elizabeth Cairns and Sarah Snooks.
They’re all fighting a rearguard action as it is because their numbers are so small. They’re an inconvenience to HS2 rather than a credible threat. This fact is borne out by all the videos they post on their various Facbook pages or YouTube sites. I’ve never quite understood how a video showing a single protester utterly failing to stop any work at all is meant to act as an encouragement to anyone! Here’s an example from Alan ‘Budgee’ Woodward on YouTube.
A cynic might wonder how many of these videos serve any other purpose than narcissism. Even some of the protesters seem to be realising that it’s all very well providing hours of voyeuristic material for your Farcebook ‘friends’ or YouTube followers but their support very rarely materialises in the real world. It may give you a feeling of self-importance, but they don’t matter a damn when it comes to actually trying to stop Hs2. It’s the same when it comes to raising money, as this appeal shows.
Whichever metric you look at it’s clear the campaign’s collapsing. Here’s today’s numbers for their latest petition on the Government’s website.
Notice that only HS2 phase 1 features on the petition? Contrast that to this map of their 2017 petition when they had over 26,000 signatures.
The phase 2 routes are conspicuous by their absence! Rother Valley, the only phase 2 constituency that got into four figures has only got 28 signatures so far this time.
So, politically their campaign’s dead. It’s also hopeless on the ground as the numbers turning up are tiny and ineffective which only leaves the legal angle and antis have pinned their hopes on Celebrity environmentalist Chris Packham’s legal case. But there’s one rather large problem. Packham hasn’t even got permission to proceed with it. Before he does he needs to convince a judge that his argument has merit and there’s a case to answer. If he falls at that hurdle, it’s toast. Even if a judge does let him proceed it won’t stop Hs2 in the slightest as the process HS2 went through to get approval is very different to the legal argument over Heathrow. Watch this case go nowhere…
So, how did today’s token demonstration in Kenilworth go? Badly, although those who took part try and pretend otherwise! Looking at the videos from the event (and being generous) I’d say that around 250 turned up to posture and parade. They weren’t actually stopping anything of course. It was purely symbolic. The problem? Over 2.5 million folk live on phase 1 of HS2, so 250 is politically and statistically insignificant. The only message it sends is – “is that it?”
Some people never learn. In this case it’s the dwindling bunch of Nimbys who still oppose HS2 and think that their sense of entitlement somehow trumps the transport infrastructure needs of the UK, especially in this time of climate change, where we really do need the rail capacity to get folks out of planes and cars and onto carbon-neutral trains.
Despite everything that’s happened in the past few months, what with the Conservatives gaining a solid Parliamentary majority and half the MPs who previously opposed HS2 losing their seats since 2014 – the tiny band who fly the flag of ‘StopHs2’ haven’t learned a thing in a decade.
Short of any real plan, far less a cunning one, they’ve fallen back on the same failed tactics that have never stood them in good stead – even when there was lots more of them!
They’ve started another petition…
Because petitions have worked so well for them in the past, obviously!
Here’s a link to the latest one, which has got off to a less than stratospheric start (as I scribble this it has 867 signatures after 3 days). It’s been started by one Elizabeth Williams, whom I’m assuming is the same ‘Lizzie’ Williams who started StopHs2 until she had to hand over the reins of the groups as her behaviour was in danger of imploding it.
Why they still bother with these petitions is a total mystery as all they ever do is three things – get less and less signatures each time, prove the fact that the vast majority of folk signing them live in the 63 constituencies Hs2 passes through – and that the majority of those signing live on Phase 1! Here’s the petition map from today which (as ever) shows that – by total co-incidence – the most signatures are from constituencies on Phase 1. You can imagine my surprise….
This petition will do exactly the same as all the others. It’s doomed to failure from the start. It also shows that – despite have run several of these pointless exercises in the past – they’ve never actually twigged their limitations. Just say for the sake of argument they get 100,oo signatures (hell will freeze over first). What happens then? How will that stop HS2? It won’t. Here’s what it says on the front page of each petition.
“Considered for debate”. Debate, not vote. There is no vote. The petition is toothless. Mind you, even if there was a vote HS2 would win it hands down with a huge majority as the project has cross-party support! It’s an utterly pointless exercise.
Still, it does do one thing. It gives me a few numbers to crunch and empirical evidence of the weakness of the StopHs2 campaign. So, it will be interesting to compare it with the results of 2019, 2018 or even some of their earlier efforts.
Meanwhile, in the real world, construction of HS2 ramps up…
Don’t expect many updates on the progress (or rather lack of) of this petition. I may pop in once a month just to see how badly it’s doing, but it’s really not worth wasting more time on than that.
Yep, today’s the start of a new month, not that there’s been much of a change, as we’ve had yet another storm warning! The only discernible difference is that the days are starting to get longer. I’ve spent much of the weekend scanning yet more old railway slides from 1990, which you can find in this gallery on my Zenfolio website. The latest batch of 60 are from Bristol and also the Tinsley loco depot open day, held on a dismal Saturday in September. Here’s a sample, featuring Bath Rd depot in Bristol – another place that’s long-gone.
As I mentioned in my last blog. I’m back in Bristol tomorrow for an ACoRP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) conference. The programme shows that it’s going to be a busy event spread over two days but no doubt I’ll have some time to blog/tweet about what’s going on, as well as catch up with some old friends from the world of community railways.
To get to Bristol in time means the pair of us are up at sparrow-fart in the morning, so this isn’t going to be a long blog. I’d hoped to have time to compose one about the collapse of the StopHs2 campaign, but that can wait for another day! It’s not as if there’s anything going on with them anyway. They’ve been very quiet on social media since the Government announced the fact HS2’s been given the green light. Mind you, they’ve also been inactive in the real world too. Their ‘direct action’ campaign at Harvil Rd and Cubbington wood has been completely ineffective at stopping HS2. The penny finally seems to be dropping that they’ll never have the numbers of people on the ground they need. There’s only a couple of dozen regulars and a few ‘weekend warriors’ – who’re especially useless and HS2 Ltd don’t normally work at weekends so there’s nothing to stop! The fact that having a bunch of voyeurs’ watching you make fools of yourself on Facebook isn’t going to stop Hs2 seems to be slowly sinking in too – hence this rather revealing post of one of their Facebook pages.
I’ll blog about this in detail when I have the time. Right now it’s time to pack a suitcase…
– but not today, despite the earlier claims of the BBC. Right now, she’s sucking throat lozenges, preparing for the final act which (if I’m right) will be next week.
The stage has been set by leaks to the media that the Chancellor and Midlands MP, Sajid Javid has thrown his weight behind building HS2 as the economics stack up for, not against the project. As Javid is a very Senior member of the Government and the man in charge of the money, this is hugely important. We’ve also seen a chorus of ‘get on with it’ from many of the new intake of Tory MPs in the North, much to the chagrin of Northern antis, who tried to pretend the ‘newbies’ were all against the project.
Whilst the announcement may not dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ in relation to Phase 2b of HS2, it will certainly mean there are no more questions over phase 1. Not only that, but from what I’ve been hearing, the phase 1 contractors are expected to hit the ground running. Whilst the project’s been delayed awaiting the political go-ahead, they’ve not been kicking their heels. They’ve refined their work plans and are keen to crack-on with them.
This will be the death knell of StopHs2 which has always been a phase 1 based campaign. It renders them completely irrelevant. Oh, there might be a few isolated protests due to local Nimbys and ‘Extinction Rebellion’ but they’ve already shown they’ve neither the numbers or the muscle to actually stop the work continuing. The idea they’re puffing that ‘Middle England’ will turn out to ‘protect’ the countryside and stop HS2 is pure bluster. They’ve fallen for their own social media spin and the numbers of voyeurs who watch their futile antics via Facebook – but who’ll never do anthing more than send ‘thoughts and prayers’.
Also, the law on these protests has tightened up since the heady days of “Swampy” and the road protests of the 1980s-90s. How many of these middle-class, middle-aged (and over) protesters are prepared to collect a criminal record other than ones by Max Bygraves or Des O’ Connor? They may protest while it’s felt the project hasn’t got a formal ‘green light’, but how many will still bother when it has and the full weight of the construction companies with thousands of men and hundreds of machines move in?
In the meantime, the froth will continue for a few more days, but I think even most antis have worked out how this is going to end. A few die-hards are still blustering on Twitter and Facebook from their armchairs, whilst the reprogrammed pro-brexit trolls spout absolute garbage, sometimes in incomprehensible ways like this.
“Beachams”? I think it was trying to refer to Beeching, but it got lost in translation!
I wonder how Joe Rukin’s job hunt is going? Not very well by the look of it. he’s reduced to recording this incoherent and rambling video from his bunker! The hilarious part is he’s asked his supporters to forward this car-crash to the PM! Bless…
The sorry saga around the HS2 go-ahead announcement continues, with the BBC now claiming the Government will make the call tomorrow (Thursday). This rather contradicts the majority view from various informed sources that the announcement won’t be made until AFTER the UK formally leaves the EU, which is 11pm this Friday. The latest informed source I’ve spoken to reckons that the announcement will either be made Tuesday or Thursday next week, or at the end of February, due to the Parliamentary timetable. Personally, I suspect the latter date will be sailing close to the wind as March is the month construction needs to start without penalty payments bumping up the construction price – as confirmed in the latest NAO report into HS2.
Whatever the truth of the matter it’s clear that the announcement is imminent. Not a single source I’ve talked to considers there’s any real chance the project will be cancelled. Politically and economically, cancellation is a non-starter. The sooner this decision is taken the better.
Meanwhile, the froth around HS2 continues in the media, with column inch after column inch of speculation, spin and outright fiction. It’s certainly keeping the pundits busy anyway!
But what of the StopHs2 campaign? It goes from farce to worse. Poor Joe Rukin has made a fool of himself yet again in this overwrought post on the Stop Hs2 Facebook page. A wildlife expert he clearly isn’t. Look at the reply to his Badger sett claim!
Meanwhile, the Harvil Rd protest appears to have collapsed. In contrast to the previous barrage of tedious Facebook posts and self-indulgent videos on the Colne Valley Facebook page there’s been nothing for days. No-one seems to be doing anything that even merits a boring video, much less actually stopping any work on the ground – and this is their oldest and biggest protest camp! Instead, we’ve been treated to more over-long and tedious ‘livestream’ videos from the latest ‘camp’ which is on Welsh Road just outside Offchurch, Warwickshire. Here’s a link.
What it shows is a handful of mostly middle-class protesters completely failing to stop the cutting down of trees and hedgerows alongside a road. It’s all a bit of an expensive pantomime as contractors erect Heras fencing to protect protesters from themselves as they stupidly (and pointlessly) try and place themselves in harms way and then film it – as if it’s HS2’s fault they’re daft enough to get where they are! The contractors and police display the patience of saints as the protesters wind themselves up, spouting more and more nonsense about the project, the law – and the countryside. And what have they stopped? Nothing.
The irony is the guy who’s filming this and who constantly boasts about all the ‘hearts’ being posted on his feed are worse than useless. It’s nothing more than voyeurism. Those armchair warriors won’t do anything other than massage a few protesters egos by telling them how they’re ‘with them in spirit’ and other suchlike tosh. It’s about as useful as sending “thoughts and prayers” but this is the nature of protest in the smartphone age it seems! The protesters video drags on interminably, with the same ridiculous statements including all the old favourites about “HS2 only saves 20 mins”, “no-one will use it”, “it’ll be obsolete in 10yrs” – wibble, froth wibble. After a while, the police beef up their presence at the site (adding yet more expense) whilst the protesters try to argue everything that’s being done is ‘illegal’. It’s like arguing about angels on heads of pins. Opinions don’t trump legality so the protesters are on to a loser from the very start. What’s actually depressing is just how ignorant and misinformed they are, but then the likes of StopHs2’s Joe Rukin has been filling people’s heads with nonsense for years…
Eventually, after 2 hours filming, the video ends and we’re saved from more middle-class angst, pointless arguments and misinformation.
Did it stop the tree felling and hedgerow clearance? Did it heck as like! The protesters own video admits they’ve failed to stop 3/4 mile of tree felling and hedgerow clearance! A tiny delay is not stopping anything. The irony, this pointless exercise will have cost a pretty penny in security and (probably) police overtime. Yet one of the things the protesters are complaining about is the cost of building HS2. The very costs they’re adding to with their futile protests. Here’s the later video which shows how the protesters wasted their time.
Away from pointless protests there’s been action on the political front which has ramifications for HS2. Today Transport Minister Grant Shapps announced that the Northern rail franchise is going to be taken back of Arriva and run by the DfT’s operator of last resort (OLR). Well, I say ‘action’ but this move had been widely trailed and has hardly come as a surprise. You can find a copy of Shapps Statement here.
The implications for HS2 comes in this, the admission that the issue is as much about infrastructure as anything else.
“The vast majority of Northern’s trains pass though Leeds or Manchester”? The two Northern cities that HS2 does so much to relieve rail capacity in! I’ve no doubt Northern leaders will be pointing this out to Shapps. With such an admission, does anyone seriously think the Minister is about to announce the cancellation of HS2 when doing so will just add to the problems?
I’ve had another busy day at home scanning yet more old slides, whilst also preparing to move on to other activities this week. Tomorrow will see me back on the rails as I head to a press event at Barrow Hill near Chesterfield. All will be revealed in tomorrow’s rolling blog. In the meantime, if you want to have a look at the latest batch of Brazilian travel pictures, visit this gallery. If you want to see more of the vintage railway pictures from 1980, click on this link.
In between scanning pictures I’ve been keeping abreast of the world news and antics of social media. The health scare in China’s certainly having an impact on the world’s financial markets. The UK FTSE Index lost 2.29% of its value today, which is wiping out most of January’s gains. Not much fun if you’re an investor…
Still, social media provided some unintentional light hearted moments thanks to the latest shenanigan’s by the tiny bunch of StopHs2 protesters. They’ve been very quiet recently since their main protest camp at Harvil Rd was broken up as most of it’s been evicted, leaving them with nothing to film to bore social media with. But today they staged a comeback – of sorts, only not at Harvil Rd. A new camp has been started to ‘protect’ some trees and hedgerows that are being removed from along a road on the route at Offchurch, Warwickshire, but it’s all been a bit of a farce. Their ‘camp’ is a handful of tents but most of the land is already occupied and fenced off by contractors, so the work is continuing unhindered. StopHs2 have tried to make a meal of it on their website as their grandly titled ‘campaign manager’ Joe Rukin turned up to film earlier today. You can find the videos here on the StopHs2 website, but I can assure you you’re not missing much if you don’t bother!
As you can see from this screengrab, the handful of protestors are kept away by fencing which is looked after by security and police officers. Try and get in and you’re nicked – which three protesters were! The worksite continues for quite some way, which means the protesters are totally overstretched as there’s so few of them. Quite how any of this is meant to stop Hs2 is a mystery. If they can’t even stop minor work like hedgerows being removed they’re really going to struggle when the heavy equipment arrives!
No doubt farces like this will continue for a while yet, but they’ll achieve nothing. The protesters problem is that they’ve relied on social media for so long they’ve forgotten one simple thing. Twitter trolls and their fake accounts don’t exist in real life. They won’t turn up to protests, and neither will the ‘keyboard warriors’ on Facebook! The hastily reprogrammed pro Brexit bots that are keeping the #hs2 hashtag busy on Twitter are worse then useless when it comes to the real world…
Right, it’s time to say goodnight. I’ve got to be on a train at 07:20 in the morning, so watch out for tomorrow’s rolling blog, which will feature a rail vehicle of a type never seen in the UK before…
Yet again social media has rather blown up in the faces of those opposed to HS2. This time because of an unguarded comment by one of their own. You may remember they’ve been desperate to talk up the opposition to HS2 on the ground by pretending there’s some sort of groundswell of opposition that’s seen protest camps spring up all over the phase 1 route of HS2. Of course (as usual) the truth is rather different. Students of history may remember the way Allied forces in World War 2 used inflatable models of tanks and aircraft to fool enemy reconnaissance aircraft. Stop Hs2 seemed to be trying the same stunt at Harvil Rd by setting up tents, hoping that people might then assume there were more protesters than there really were. When the Bailiffs arrived to evict the camp they counted over two dozen tents and structures. There was only one problem (for the protestors at least). Sod-all were occupied. How do we know? Firstly, because all the video’s released of the evictions by the protesters show hardly any protestors present. Then this slipped out on Facebook today.
“only seven people were on site”…
Not exactly what you’d call much of a protest, is it? Just seven people, and two of them are the same old names – Mark Kier and Sarah Green. That leaves just five others holding the ‘fort’ (and I use that term loosely) as those two are often away playing silly buggers at stunts/court appearances around London, or when Kier was meant to be election campaigning in Uxbridge!
Considering that Harvil Rd is a stones throw from London, this is the best they can do? Half a dozen people and a few ‘weekend warriors’? Yet over 2.5 million people live in the constituencies Phase 1 of HS2 passes through.
Whichever way you cut it, it’s clear these protests are not going to stop HS2 in the slightest. They’re more like flea-bites, minor irritations that are soon dealt with. Many of them, like Chris Packham’s middle-class stroll along a muddy footpath with a few hundred people the other week, are just PR stunts, not a serious attempt to interfere in the building of HS2.
I can’t see the other four camps having any greater success as the same will happen. One day the Bailiff’s and Police will turn up without warning to take possession of the land and then it’s ‘Goodnight Vienna’ for the protest.
Somehow, I don’t think anyone in the corridors of power, or at the Department of Transport in Westminster or HS2 Ltd in Birmingham are going to be losing much sleep over these protests. Apparently, this coming weekend a four day long series of protests is meant to be held at what’s left of the Harvil Rd camp in a classic example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!
Talking of protests, there’s also this one in London on January 22nd, although I can’t see this setting the world alight either. I’ll be interested to see how many people actually bother turning up.
Meanwhile, in the real world, a decision from the Government on giving HS2 the go-ahead is expected any time now. The latest round of speculation is that the Oakervee review and the go-ahead for HS2 will be announced at the same time at the beginning of February, just after the UK has formally left the EU and the clock begins ticking on the transition period. Let’s face it, the Government’s going to be desperate for some good economic news once that happens and announcing the fact we’re going ahead with HS2 would fit the bill.
It’s now 24 hours since the Bailiffs successfully evicted the protestors from the Stop Hs2 ‘protest’ camp at Harvil Rd just outside Ruislip, West London. For those not familiar with the area or what’s happening, here’s a map.
The two circles show the extent of the work that the protestors have utterly failed to stop. The field which contained their little camp is marked with an X. Just out of the picture to the right is Ruislip, in the opposite direction is Denham Country Park.
Since the eviction the StopHs2 website and antis social media pages have been full of utter nonsense about the legality of the eviction. Their supporters have been spreading the mischievous myth that this was illegal as the protestors were protected from eviction by Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. This is an old squatters favourite as it protected them from unlawful eviction. Section 6 was enacted to stop unscrupulous landlords who (on finding one of their properties had been squatted) would get a few blokes together and turf out the squatters without resorting to the hassle of going through the time-consuming process of taking legal action in the courts. Back in the 1970s when squatting was a big thing illegal evictions were a real problem and various legal groups lobbied the Government to give legal protection to squatters to stop it happening – hence Section 6. as an aside, the 1977 CLA’s an interesting bit of legislation because of some of its other provisions. Section 52 redefined cannabis to include cannabis resin after a successful appeal due to a loophole in the 1971 MODA (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971). See R v Goodchild .
When my properties (see below) were squatted you’d often find that the squatters had a printed S6 notice stuck to the front door, thinking this was some sort of magic charm that protected them from eviction. It didn’t. It merely made it illegal to evict them without due process and a court order executed with a warrant by officers of the court (Bailiffs). Of course, since the 1977 CLA, the eviction process has been speeded up considerably, but the anti HS2 protesters seem to think they’re still living back in the 1970s-80s!
I have to admit to a certain amount of interest and previous experience here. In a previous life back in the 1990s I was a Housing Officer for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets before taking on the same role at Tower Hamlets Housing Action Trust when 3 estates in Bow (E London) were transferred to that organisation. Evictions were part of my job and I (along with the County Court bailiffs) carried out many over the years. One day, if I ever get the time I’ll blog about some of the stories, which whilst both funny and tragic they’re worth relating. But I digress.
Here’s the latest misinformation and spin on the Stop Hs2 website from that renowned ‘legal expert’ Joe Rukin.
There’s only one problem with this. Joe is completely clueless about the reality of the law. As I pointed out earlier, S6 only protects people from illegal eviction.
This was not an illegal eviction.
Why? Because it was carried out under the conditions of a Compulsory Purchase Order. The fact the squatters claimed they allegedly had ‘permission’ from the previous tenant is irrelevant, they didn’t have it from the new owners of the land. In yesterday’s blog I linked to an excellent explanation in plain English of CPO powers in this situation. You can find it here. But in this blog I’ll make it easier by copying it and spelling out the relevant sections. The beauty of this link is it describes enforcing a CPO in EXACTLY these circumstances.
So, let’s rebut (point by point) the StopHs2 claims.
“protestors had legal occupation of the land under the Criminal Law Act 1977”.
No. They didn’t. the 1977 CLA only provides protection from illegal eviction. It doesn’t confer any right to occupation. By purchasing the land from the previous owners under a CPO HS2 Ltd had legal rights over the land, not the protestors. All it means is that HS2 Ltd had to go through due process to remove the protestors from the land, which they did.
“today HS2 Ltd decided they could evict the entire camp under Compulsory Purchase Oder (sic) powers, despite the supposed protection of the CLA, which suggests this is an illegal eviction“.
It ‘suggests’ nothing of the sort. Rukin doesn’t understand the CLA, or the powers granted by a CPO.
“In this video, the man in charge of the eviction admits there is no eviction order, and the eviction is being conducted under a compulsory purchase order, despite the fact the land is covered by a notice of occupation under the Criminal Law Act”.
Here we go again…
Forget the CPA, we’ve already dealt with that. “there is no eviction order” because no notice is required, as the guidance explains. In fact the Bailiff went to great pains to explain his powers in detail (as the video on the StopHs2 Facebook page shows). The only problem is the likes of Sarah Green and Rukin simply weren’t listening!
The acquiring authority may apply to a justice of the peace to a warrant which will entitle them to exercise the power given in the CPO. The justice of the peace can only issue the warrant authorising the use of force if he or she is satisfied that persons are preventing or are likely to prevent entry and that it is reasonable to use force to remove them.
Once the warrant has been issued, this is the instruction to the HCEO to deliver possession of the land to the acquiring authority. No other court order is required.
The warrant confers the powers the HCEO will need to execute it, including the right to enter the land or premises and to use reasonable force. The HCEO will be wholly responsible and personally liable for the execution of the warrant.
So, the warrant having been issued, there’s no need to give advance warning of its execution and enforcement. Why? This explains.
Whilst the acquiring authority does have to give notice of the CPO and their intention to take possession (via a notice to treat or a vesting declaration), the HCEO is not obliged to give notice of the enforcement of the warrant.
However, should the circumstances indicate that it would be more appropriate to serve notice, perhaps because children are on the premises, then they can do so. In the case of protesters, particularly environmental protesters, serving notice might carry the risk of more protesters being brought onto the site.
This last sentence spells out exactly why no notice is needed or was given.
As for this nonsense about the police acting illegally by not intervening. Here’s the reality. The police have a statutory duty to assist.
The police has a statutory duty to assist the HCEO when executing either a High Court writ or a compulsory purchase order warrant – Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 sec 140 (10).
Hopefully people will find this useful in dispelling the StopH2 myth-making, disinformation and spin around these evictions. I doubt it’ll have any influence on the protestors themselves, many of whom seem to live in an alternate universe to the rest of us judging by the stuff they’ve been coming out with, but this is why they’re on to a loser. Their bubble bursts when it comes into contact with the real world – especially the legal world!
Not that this stops some of StopHs2’s supporters coming out with some hilarious, paranoid old rubbish and conspiracy theories that really are away with the fairies. Take this example from the StopH2 Facebook page today.
Quite how this tinfoil-hat nonsense is meant to Stop Hs2 is a mystery. Sadly, it is a good illustration that we have a real problem in this country with people peddling rubbish and who really can’t tell fact from fiction. Here’s another absolute classic from the StopHs2 Facebook page!
Oh, the irony!
This afternoon various Facebook groups were still spreading rubbish about the legality of the eviction (and more), like this one. But notice how few people have shared it, never mind actually responded.
On that note I thought I’d conclude this blog with a picture taken at the last Facebook friends of StopHs2 annual meeting…