Property: A losing battle in the trenches - Residents have no control over construction work on their doorsteps. Anne Spackman talks to two victims

Anne Spackman
Friday 17 June 1994 23:02

As a tenant, Linda Libetta will get no compensation for the widening of the North Circular Road next to her home Photographs: Neil Pattison

LINDA LIBETTA and her son Kristan live in East Finchley, north London. Next to them, the North Circular Road is being widened from two lanes to six.

THIS WAS a quiet cul-de-sac until they started work a year ago. They compulsorily purchased the land right up to our garden fence, tore down the trees and left us looking at a desolate work-site. The constructors spent all last summer pile-driving just the other side of the fence. They even took out some of the fence panels, leaving children directly exposed to the site.

There was dust and building equipment everywhere. We couldn't get to our own parking spaces. When someone complained about the dust, the constructors tapped into our water system until it was so filthy you couldn't have a bath. We had cracks in our walls, vibrations and horrendous noise. Last week was the first time I've used my garden for a year.

They started at 6am on Saturdays and Sundays as well as weekdays. Then they started talking about night work: they needed to pull down the Northern Line railway bridge and didn't want to close it during the day. It goes right past some people's kitchen windows.

They came up with the idea of bed-and-breakfast: they wanted us to spend 24 nights in a hotel while they did the work. The places they showed us were absolutely appalling. Each family had one room, no TV, no lounge, no evening meal. If you had young children you had to go to bed at 7pm with them. Some older children were doing their GCSEs. Most residents stuck it for just one night. However, after a meeting with Steven Norris (Transport minister for London), which our solicitor, Sally Moore, came to, they decided to close the line on Sundays and run a shuttle instead.

The people suffering are us and those in Strawberry Vale, the big council estate. I feel that if we were home owners rather than tenants the idea of six lanes of traffic right outside our homes might not even have been considered. Because we are tenants we have no right to compensation. We are still paying our rent and full council tax. The housing association has not helped us in any way.

Most of the children here seem to suffer from asthma. Some have been in and out of hospital. This work is due to last another four years. By the time it is finished, my son will be doing his GCSEs and I'm not prepared to see his chances ruined. I don't care about compensation. I just want to get away from this road. It has taken over our lives.

Due to rail plans, James Barley's home in east London is unsaleable

James Barley and his wife Maria live in Manor Park, east London, 12ft from a line earmarked for the Channel tunnel link and, possibly, a major BR junction.

ON THE lines behind us there is little traffic - only trains from Barking to Gospel Oak. If you were to come to tea in my front room, I would be surprised if you heard a train at all. What they are now proposing is to run trains at 80 or 90 mph from 6am to midnight every three or four minutes. From midnight to 6am it will be every seven minutes. They may also build a junction 45ft below the rail link to join the proposed Crossrail route.

These properties are six years old; one-bedroom starter homes with a garage downstairs, a living-room and kitchen on the first floor and a bathroom and bedroom upstairs. We paid pounds 71,000 for our house in 1988. Now no estate agent will give us a valuation for it. One man said we could try putting it on the market at pounds 30,000 and we might get pounds 25,000. We can't possibly take that kind of loss.

Our first baby is due on 25 August and we have no prospect of selling our house. We are not able to apply for compensation until the rail link has been running for a year. That won't be for another 10 years. I don't see that effectively we should be denied the right to have a family home.

We will have to scrap the wardrobes in our bedroom to fit in the cot: the baby will have to share our room. Our only choices are to hand the keys back to the building society and pay off the debt for the rest of our lives or, somewhere along the line, hope we get some compensation which allows us to move.

In France, they say this is where the route is going. They draw a line and if you live within 167 metres either side they ask if you would like them to buy your property or if you would like the compensation. They buy at the most recent peak price and add 20 per cent of the value to cover compensation and moving costs. Over here they are saying you aren't getting anything. Our lawyers have provided a lot of advice. They have written a presentation paper on how to petition the Bill when it appears in November. I'm not against the railway. But I need to move. I'm not looking for financial gain. I just want fair compensation.

(Photographs omitted)

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