Anti-HS2 activists smear bright pink paint over Department for Transport headquarters in London

Anti-HS2 activists in Euston tunnel protest LOSE High Court bid to block operation to remove them – as eco-mob targets Department for Transport by smearing HQ with pink paint

  • While some protesters were removed, a number of others remain underground
  • A ruling today dismissed application to get HS2 to stop efforts to extract them
  • Judge ordered penal notice should be added saying protesters should leave 
  • Burning Pink group said DfT stunt had ‘sent a message of love for our world’
  • It added that action was taken due to ‘disdain at the corporate killing machine’  

By Tom Pyman For Mailonline

Published: 13:26, 10 February 2021 | Updated: 16:26, 10 February 2021

Anti-HS2 protesters camped out in tunnels dug near Euston station have lost a High Court bid to block an operation to remove them as their colleagues targeted the Department for Transport by smearing its headquarters with pink paint today.

The tunnels, which were dug in secret by protesters who object to the redevelopment of Euston Square Gardens in London as part of HS2, were discovered on January 26 and some protesters have since been removed or left, while a number of people remain underground.

At a remote hearing on Tuesday, lawyers representing Dr Larch Maxey, one of the protesters who continues to occupy the tunnels, asked a High Court judge to order that HS2 should stop all operations to extract protesters.

They argued the remaining protesters should be provided with oxygen monitoring equipment, a hard-wired communications system, food and drink.

They also asked the court to order that arrangements should be made for the removal of human waste from the tunnels and for an independent expert to be given access to the site.

But, in a ruling today, Mrs Justice Steyn dismissed Dr Maxey’s application and ordered that a penal notice should be attached to a previous High Court order which said the protesters should stop tunnelling and leave the tunnels.

It comes as demonstrations continued this morning, with bright pink paint daubed over the DfT’s London offices.

Anti-HS2 protesters have smeared bright pink paint over the Department for Transport’s London headquarters as the eco mob continues its demonstrations over the rail hub

Anti-HS2 activists smear bright pink paint over Department for Transport headquarters in London

Snow covers the top of a wooden structure at the site of the HS2 Rebellion encampment in Euston Square Gardens earlier this week

Anti-HS2 activists smear bright pink paint over Department for Transport headquarters in London

Enforcement agents walk at a makeshift camp as Extinction Rebellion activists occupy tunnels under Euston Square Gardens

Dr Larch Maxey: The geography teacher who continues to occupy the tunnels 

Dr Larch Maxey is an Extinction Rebellion activist who was a full-time volunteer for the radical group in 2019 and helped organise hunger strike occupations that year.

In an interview with the Guardian, the long-time climate activist said he had a PhD in sustainability and was a geography lecturer and post-doctoral researcher for 17 years.

However, he said he had no income and described himself as a ‘relaxed freegan’ – someone who only eats food that would be going to waste.

Anti-HS2 activists smear bright pink paint over Department for Transport headquarters in London

Dr Larch Maxey, pictured, is one of the activists still occupying the tunnels

The Bristol-based activist has said: ‘I work about 14 hours, six days a week with Extinction Rebellion. My role involves helping develop and implement our strategy and ideas for actions, and linking up with international groups.

‘This is my life’s purpose, and I couldn’t be happier and more fulfilled. I’m happy to spend every waking moment bringing this change about.’

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The judge said the evidence shows that the tunnel is ‘poorly constructed and liable to collapse’ and that Dr Maxey and other protesters are in a ‘highly dangerous situation’, while the danger is ‘equally grave’ for those attempting to remove them.

She added: ‘At present, there is nothing hindering the claimant and other protesters from leaving the tunnel and several of the protesters have done so over the course of the last week.’

The judge said media reports suggest the protesters went into the tunnels with about six weeks of supplies and there is no evidence they lack food and water.

She added: ‘But in any event, they are not detained or stuck in the tunnel: they are choosing to remain there as trespassers.

‘Any contention that the defendant has an obligation to supply them with food and water, to enable them to remain longer in the highly dangerous situation they are currently in, is misconceived.

‘The defendant has in fact been removing human waste and has made clear it will continue to do so, although as Ms Sheikh points out, the need to deal with such materials, particularly with an ongoing pandemic, serves to reinforce the importance of bringing the occupation of the tunnel to an end.’

She said that, on the evidence placed before her, there is ‘no realistic prospect’ of the court finding HS2 was breaching its duty to the protesters.

The judge added: ‘The claimant has not come close to establishing a strong enough case to justify the court stopping the operations to remove those who are in the tunnel, given the compelling evidence as to how dangerous it is for them to remain there.’

Mrs Justice Steyn said the previous urgent court order, made late last Monday by Mr Justice Robin Knowles, should remain in place and have a penal notice attached – which means Dr Maxey could face contempt of court proceedings.

She said the part of the order requiring Dr Maxey to provide details of the layout, size and engineering of the tunnel is a ‘just and convenient order made with a view to securing the end of the claimant’s trespass by removing him safely and consistently with his right to life’. 

Anti-HS2 activists smear bright pink paint over Department for Transport headquarters in London

 Six HS2 Rebellion activists including veteran environmental campaigner Swampy, real name Daniel Hooper, and his son Rory are still occupying the tunnels dug in secret near Euston Station in Central London

Swampy: The professional activist who has protested for three decades

Swampy, whose real name is Daniel Marc Hooper, became a household name in the 1990s during a variety of environmental protests.

He is best known for spending a week in a complex series of tunnels dug in the path of the expansion of the A30 road in Fairmile, Devon in 1996.

Resisting attempts at eviction by police, Swampy was eventually removed from the network of man-made tunnels.

Anti-HS2 activists smear bright pink paint over Department for Transport headquarters in London

Swampy, pictured, is a long-time professional protester

In 1997, Swampy took part in another tunnel protest against the building of a second runway at Manchester Airport, and has also been involved with the Trident nuclear submarine protest camp at Faslane, Scotland.

In 2019, Swampy took part in an Extinction Rebellion protest by attaching himself to a concrete block at the entrance to the Valero Energy fuel refinery in Pembrokeshire.

Last October, he was arrested at Jones Hill Wood in Buckinghamshire, having occupied a treehouse to prevent trees being chopped down on the route of HS2.

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Barrister Josh Hitchens, representing Dr Maxey, told the court on Wednesday that the environmental campaigner no longer wishes to pursue his claim for judicial review against HS2.

Dr Maxey originally filed a challenge against HS2’s decision to extract the protesters from the tunnels and over an alleged failure to ‘safely manage’ the site.

Mr Hitchens also told the court that Dr Maxey’s legal team only became aware that the Health and Safety Executive had required changes to be made at the site of the tunnels during Tuesday’s hearing.

A statement issued on behalf of HS2 said: ‘The decision of the court today is utterly unambiguous – that HS2 Ltd is carrying out the eviction correctly and that the illegal trespassers are breaking the law and should remove themselves from the tunnel immediately.

‘We urge Dr Maxey to comply with the order as soon as possible – for his safety and the safety of the other activists and the HS2 and emergency personnel tasked with removing the illegal trespassers.

‘HS2 will continue its operation to safely remove the illegal trespassers currently occupying an underground tunnel in Euston Square.’

Meanwhile, activists from the group Burning Pink claimed on Facebook after today’s stunt that two members had ‘sent a message of love for our world and disdain at the corporate killing machine’.

Police were stationed near the building this morning where paint had been thrown over the door, windows, walls and pavement.

The area in front of the building in Horseferry Road, Westminster, central London, was taped off while staff attempted to clean up the bright pink liquid.

Burning Pink said on Facebook it was ‘disgusted by the Department of Transport and their complicity in the demise of what little we have left in the way of nature and beauty’. 

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said that two people had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. 

Anti-HS2 activists smear bright pink paint over Department for Transport headquarters in London

Activists from the group Burning Pink claimed on Facebook that two members had ‘sent a message of love for our world and disdain at the corporate killing machine’

Anti-HS2 activists smear bright pink paint over Department for Transport headquarters in London

Police were stationed near the building this morning where paint had been thrown over the door, windows, walls and pavement

PM confirms plans to develop HS2’s eastern leg 

Boris Johnson has confirmed the Government plan to develop the eastern leg of HS2.

Labour MP Ian Mearns (Gateshead) said during PMQs it is ‘crucial’ that the eastern leg of the high speed rail project goes ahead ‘not just for Yorkshire and the East Midlands, but also for the North East’.

He added: ‘The Prime Minister has made repeated promises to the people of the North East of his intention to level up and to connect and create opportunities for people here in places like Gateshead.

‘So as we strive to recover from the damage done to so many families and businesses by the pandemic, will the Prime Minister commit to beginning the work on the eastern leg of HS2, starting in the North East, to run simultaneously with the construction in the South, so that our region is not forced to wait another couple of decades for 21st century rail connectivity?’

Mr Johnson replied: ‘I can certainly confirm that we are going to develop the eastern leg as well as the whole of HS2 and (Mr Mearns) will be hearing a lot more about what we’re going to do with our national infrastructure revolution, about what we’re going to do to improve not just rail transport, but road transport as well in the North East.’

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A Government spokesman said: ‘We always recognise the right to peaceful protest, but there is no justification for acts of vandalism on public property which put frontline emergency service workers at risk during the pandemic.

‘HS2 is a long-term, low-carbon alternative to domestic flights, freight and driving which will be crucial to achieving our ambition of carbon net zero by 2050.’

It comes after a second secret protest tunnel underneath the capital was found yesterday by stunned bailiffs trying to clear away campaigners railing against plans to fell trees for flats.

Islington Council enforcement officers were gobsmacked to discover the burrow beneath Dixon Clark Court on Highbury Corner, Islington.

It was said to have been masterminded by veteran activist Swampy and the crew who had occupied tunnels below Euston Square against HS2.

The new crawlspace is part of the Highbury Corner Tree Protection Camp, which is protesting against the council over a six-storey block of private housing earmarked for the area.

They say a ‘little forest’ of seven mature trees will be lost, including Norwegian maple, sycamores and chestnuts. 

It is strikingly similar to the tunnel plaguing bailiffs and enforcement officers at Euston Square Gardens.

A fortnight has passed since it was first found, with Swampy and others, including the children of a millionaire laird of an island, waiting it out in there.

Scotland Yard said that 37 arrests have been made at the protest site so far for various offences including breaches of coronavirus regulations, trespassing and offences under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act. 

Some 23 fixed-penalty notices have also been issued, a police spokesperson added. 

Why is the GBP98bn HS2 rail project so controversial? 

Anti-HS2 activists smear bright pink paint over Department for Transport headquarters in London

 

The Woodland Trust, a conservation charity, calls HS2 ‘a grave threat to the UK’s ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage’.

But HS2 says only 0.29 square kilometres (0.11 square miles) of ancient woodland will be lost during the first phase.

HS2 says it will reduce journey times between London and northern England and add capacity to Britain’s crowded rail network.

Critics question whether HS2 is worth its ballooning price tag – now reported more than GBP100billion – especially after a pandemic that might permanently change people’s travel habits.

The first phase linking London and Birmingham is due to open between 2029 and 2033, according to HS2 Ltd. 

In September Boris Johnson joined the front line to see work begin on HS2, as shovels hit the ground in Solihull. 

He said the ‘incredible’ scheme, launched in 2009, would deliver not just ‘22,000 jobs now, but tens of thousands more high-skilled jobs in the decades ahead’. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs last year the first trains may not be up and running until 2031.

The project has been shrouded in controversy since its birth, with campaigners warning it is ‘decimating countryside and creating a huge financial burden’.

In April wildlife presenter Chris Packham lost a High Court bid to stop ancient woodlands being dug up for the project.

There was also uproar when HS2’s annual report revealed each person working on it was costing the taxpayer almost GBP100,000 on average. 

It also revealed chief executive Mark Thurston was paid GBP659,416 last year – four times as much as the PM.

More than GBP3.3million was spent on ‘travel and subsistence’ and GBP802,000 on recruitment fees.

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