Swampy's makeshift HS2 encampment cost company £3.5million court hears

Eco-warrior Swampy and five other anti-HS2 activists cost firm building high speed rail link £3.5m after month-long Euston tunnel protest, court hears

  • Activists spent a month in Euston Square Gardens protesting £100bn HS2 plans 
  • Eco-protesters’ 30 day stunt cost one company backing HS2 project £3.5million 
  • Veteran eco-warrior Swampy was among the six who appeared in court today 
  • They resisted arrest using small tunnels and camped in ramshackle tree houses 

Veteran eco-warrior Swampy and a group of other anti-HS2 protesters cost the company building the high-speed railway line £3.5 million by tunnelling under the development, a court has heard.

The loss was revealed as Daniel Hooper, 48, also known as ‘Swampy’, Dr Larch Maxey, 49, Isla Sandford, 18, Lachlan Sandford, 20, Juliett Stevenson-Clarke, 22 and Scott Green went on trial for offences linked to tunnels and treehouses they created in January this year.

The six, all part of a group called HS2 Rebellion, dug underneath Euston Square in north London and lived inside a makeshift encampment for a month in protest, Highbury Magistrates’ Court heard on Tuesday.

They all deny obstructing or disrupting a person engaged in lawful activity, and Dr Maxey also denies a charge of criminal damage of a mobile phone.

The court heard that the six defendants occupied the tunnel system and treehouses they had built from pallets, and then branded ‘Buckingham Pallets’, in protest over the HS2 redevelopment of the area.

Veteran eco-warrior Daniel Hooper, 48, also known as ‘Swampy’ pictured outside Highbury Magistrates’ Court, London 

Dan Hooper, known as Swampy pictured outside court with Blue Sandford, who spent weeks in tunnels under Euston Square Gardens in central London

Six protesters, pictured outside court today, went on trial for offences linked to tunnels and treehouses they constructed in Euston Square, north London in January 2021

Swampy was pictured in self-dug tunnels (above) at Euston Square Gardens, London in January 2021

Protesters including veteran environmental campaigner Dan Hooper (top left), known as Swampy, who spent weeks in tunnels under Euston Square Gardens in central London appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates

Prosecutor Sarah Gaby told the court HS2 possessed the area and contractors were due to start work in Euston Square before the discovery of the secret network of tunnels on January 26 this year.

Two days later, HS2 issued a warrant ordering protesters off the site.

On February 19, a High Court injunction ruled the group were to stop further tunnelling and tell HS2, the Health and Safety Executive, London Fire Brigade and the police how many people were in the tunnels. The last did not leave for another month on February 26.

The court heard from Simon Natas, a chartered surveyor at HS2, who said the protesters had cost the company – which had arranged contractors to build a new taxi rank at the station – £3.5 million.

Cherry pickers dismantle ramshackle tree houses built by the activists. HS2 (High Speed 2) is a plan to construct a new high-speed rail linking London, West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester

HS2 contractors were due to start work in Euston Square before the discovery of the secret network of tunnels on January 26 this year. Above: The proposed route

He said an estimated £2.8 million was spent on enforcement officers tasked with removing the protesters from the site.

The surveyor told of a dawn raid on the protest site at around 4.15am on January 27, that had the aim of removing the protesters.

He said: ‘I saw the lid of a tunnel and there were three tree platforms and tents. Most of them were escorted by enforcement officers.’

Specialist enforcement officer Brett Easter told the court he was tasked with removing the protesters from enclosed spaces, including the tunnels.

He said this included the creation of nine underground ‘drop shafts’ that would create a ‘cat and mouse’ game with protesters, who then left the tunnels over the course of the month. 

One protester was removed by enforcement agents and could be heard shouting as he was carried out from the makeshift camp by staff from HS2’s private contractor, the National Eviction Team

Piles of rubbish were left after the destruction of the HS2-protesting camp continued

Police evicted the so-called ‘Tree Protector Camp’ in order to press ahead with the development of the area which is part of the £106billion high-speed railway link

Mr Easter said he was also charged with the task of checking on the wellbeing and safety of the protesters who were living inside the tunnels, and said paramedics were on hand to help if they were needed.

He said: ‘We forced entry through a metal door and when we were inside we gave another warning in regards to the warrant. 

Why is the HS2 rail line project controversial? 

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 the high speed rail line is worth its ballooning price tag, 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 tunnel was secured with pallets and filled with spoil after they had dug the tunnels so we had to deconstruct that, taking time to make sure we didn’t undermine the structure of the buildings [tunnels].’

Mr Easter said enforcement officers used an endoscopic camera to see where the protesters had dug the 10-foot tunnels.

He said: ‘The tunnels were a body’s width, at some points there were chambers which would be used as storage for food, or a place they could rest and plan.’

The trial is expected to run until Friday.  

The HS2 Rebellion activists scaled cranes and clambered onto wooden platforms in the trees in Euston Square Gardens, London in protest against the £106billion project.

Eco-activists barricaded themselves in self-made structures in trees and dug secret 100ft tunnels in their desperate bid to halt the HS2 project – which is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds – in January, 2021.

Anti-HS2 protesters claim the line will destroy or irreparably damage 108 ancient woodlands and 693 wildlife sites, and that Euston Square Gardens will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold off to developers.

They added that ‘tree protectors’ were prepared to occupy the tunnels, dug ‘in secret’ over the last few months, and would stay underground ‘for as long as it takes to stop HS2’. 

The hardcore protesters included veteran activist 48-year-old Swampy, real name Daniel Hooper, who came out of retirement during the pandemic to oppose the planned HS2 rail link.  

‘Swampy’ first hit the headlines in 1996, when he spent seven days and seven nights living in a tunnel dug by campaigners to stop the £50million A30 dual carriageway link road in Devon.

The father-of-four briefly re-emerged in 2019 to join an Extinction Rebellion protest in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where he obstructed access to an oil refinery by attaching himself to a concrete block.

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

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