Empty council flats close to HS2 construction site to become low-cost art studios

Construction of HS2 at Euston is on hold. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Homes left empty because of disruption and noise from HS2 building work could be used as low-cost studios for artists.

The government has put the brakes on construction of the multi-million-pound rail link at Euston after costs spiralled – but not before many families on the Regents Park estate had had enough.

The National Audit Office said a new HS2 station at Euston could cost £5bn – £2bn over the budget.

Camden Council wants to put the 153 flats to good use over the next two years whilst the uncertainty remains.

People have moved out of most of the flats in the estate’s three blocks.

HS2 and the Department of Transport agreed a £29.2m compensation deal with Camden Council to compensate affected residents.

One resident had testified: “Sleeping is very difficult. There is noise all day. All the windows are closed all day. When they drill my bed shakes. My blood pressure has gone up.”

Another family spoke about their son’s skin problems, which his doctor put down to pollution and dust.

Camden has now teamed up with the Bow Arts charity to use the flats as low-cost workspace for artists and creatives.

The council has applied for change of use for the flats, but was keen to point out that this would not affect any flats still used by residents.

There are no plans to re-let the flats currently because they are so close to the mammoth building site.

The council’s planning committee previously granted short-term permission for 25 flats to be used as workspaces as a pilot project.

Bow Arts would act as a landlord and there would be a capped monthly rent. The plan is to see main bedrooms and living rooms used as workspace, while kitchens, bathrooms and heating would be shared.

The council thinks a three-bedroom flat could offer four to five workspaces.

One remaining resident in the blocks suggested the workspaces should be limited to completely empty floors.

They also raised concerns that it could pose a security risk if unknown people had keys to the building.

The council said it would not be practical to restrict workspaces to empty floors as flats would be handed over when they become available.

Applicants would have a face-to-face interview and a copy of their photo ID will be kept on file. There will also be on-site managers.

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