‘I never thought I’d be doing this again’: Swampy speaks from inside tunnel to demand HS2 money is given to NHS on THIRD day of protest as officials order Euston Five to leave for their own safety after shaft suffered five collapses in 24 hours
- Veteran protester Swampy broke his silence to explain reason for tunnel return
- He called for HS2 billions to be spent on the NHS and a new Citizens’ Assembly
- They are protesting the high-speed rail line HS2 over its environmental cost
Swampy, the leader of Euston Five tunnellers holed up below London protesting HS2, admitted today ‘I never thought I’d do this again’.
The veteran activist, 48, is among the gang currently hiding in the ground campaigning against the £98billion high-speed railway.
He has been underground with Dr Larch Maxey, 48, and Scott ‘Scotty’ Breen, 47, and Lazer and Blue Sandford, 20 and 18, for coming up to 72 hours.
Swampy – real name Daniel Hooper – said he only came out of retirement because he believes the cost of the transport link would be better spent elsewhere.
It came after officials warned them to leave the burrows for their own safety after dive collapses in just 24 hours.
Swampy said: ‘Just think what the NHS could do with all those billions.
‘That’s how ordinary people would like to see their money spent. And yet we get this widely hated obscenity instead.
Swampy, real name Daniel Hooper, at the opening of the tunnel before the occupation
Bailiffs and enforcement officers were today in Euston taking away parts of the protest camp
The tunnel is understood to be hidden under a wooden structure and to protect it from rain
The campaigners think HS2 destroys the environment and the cost outweighs any benefit
‘It’s been many years since I’ve been down a tunnel. I never thought I’d do this again but this cause is just too important,’
Bailiffs and eviction specialists are currently attempting to coax the group out of the cramped confined space, estimated to be ten foot below the surface and up to 40 foot long.
Hooper added to the Guardian: ‘We urgently need a citizens’ assembly so that ordinary people, the sensible British public, can guide us through this climate and ecological emergency.
‘We want to see an end to the needless destruction of our beautiful, precious woodland and wildlife. And then we might stand a chance of surviving the coming storm and of there being a future for our children to inherit.’
Enforcement agents use a cherry picker to bring an Extinction Rebellion activist down
Bailiffs clear debris and set up a temporary tent after clearing protestors from the site
A protester is led away from the makeshift protest camp in Euston Square Gardens in London
Why is HS2 so 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 HS2 is worth its ballooning price tag – now reported more than £100billion – 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 £100,000 on average.
It also revealed chief executive Mark Thurston was paid £659,416 last year – four times as much as the PM. More than £3.3million was spent on ‘travel and subsistence’ and £802,000 on recruitment fees.
The protesters have been told to leave their hole for their own safety after a series of minor tunnel collapses.
A source close the recovery mission told MailOnline: ‘The protesters have dug a tunnel next to utilities. They are not tunnelling experts and have dug this makeshift burrow down there, not knowing what is nearby.
‘They have no idea what could be inches way from them so trying to extend the tunnel good very dangerous – there are gas, water and electricity lines down there everywhere.
‘The bailiffs and eviction teams have got to make sure the environment around them is safe and make sure it’s not impacting any utilities.
‘To widen the tunnel enough to get two people down there to life someone out will be very difficult – they are hoping they decide to come out themselves.’
HS2 Rebellion is protesting HS2 plans to destroy the gardens by building a temporary taxi rank for Euston Station.
They have accused HS2 of ‘breaking the law by attempting an eviction without a court order and during the national coronavirus lockdown’.
But an HS2 spokeswoman blasted the ‘illegal’ occupation and said it presented a ‘danger’ to HS2 staff and High Court enforcement officers.
The Metropolitan Police said officers were deployed only to help bailiffs should there be any ‘breach of the peace’.
The HS2 rail project, which is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and rebalance the UK’s economy, has been called ‘expensive, wasteful and destructive’ by environmentalists.
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’.
Independent experts have estimated that the HS2 rail line will cost in excess of £100billion. However, HS2 disputes this, and claims it will cost up to £98billion.
MailOnline understands that HS2 has taken legal temporary possession of Euston Square Gardens East in order to relocate the temporary taxi rank for Euston Station.
The current location of the taxi rank – Euston Square Gardens West – is required for preparatory works, including significant utilities diversions, to enable the improvements to the connections between Euston Square and Euston Underground stations, as well as for the construction of Euston’s new station.
HS2 served notices on the legal owners and occupiers of the land – London Borough of Camden, Network Rail and Transport for London – last month, stating the intention to take the site under the powers of Temporary Possession.
It is understood that the notice period is over and HS2 is now entitled the take possession of the land, and any occupants on the land are now trespassing.
The current ban on evictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic is not applicable and the police, landowners and those with legal possession of the land have the power to remove trespassers using minimum force.
HS2 bosses also insist that most ancient woodland will ‘remain intact’.
Responding to the Euston Gardens encampment, a spokesperson said: ‘To ensure HS2 is able to deliver its major benefits to the UK on time, certain works must take place at designated times.
‘HS2 has taken legal temporary possession of Euston Square Gardens East in order to progress with works necessary for the construction of the new Euston station.
‘These protests are a danger to the safety of the protestors, our staff and the general public, and put unnecessary strain on the emergency services during a pandemic.
‘The protestors are currently trespassing on land that is legally possessed by HS2.’
Who are the Euston Five?
The gang of at least five activists who have halted the £98billion HS2 project with a series of secret tunnels include a geography teacher and an ex-drug runner prison fugitive.
Their efforts have so far infuriated bailiffs trying to remove them from underneath gardens near Euston Station.
And coming from such a wide spectrum of backgrounds, each bring a different set of skills to the protest.
But the authorities warned last night they could be putting their own lives at risk if they did not crawl out of the tunnels.
The National Eviction Team said: ‘The unlawful activists appear to have put themselves in danger of a further tunnel collapse, and potentially of intercepting nearby gas and water pipes, leading to risks of suffocation, flooding and drowning.’
Here MailOnline takes a closer look at the five behind the tunnels:
Environmentalist Daniel “Swampy” Hooper seen at the tunnel entrance at Euston
Swampy in his heyday in the 1990s when he would build tunnels to support his protests
Professional protester: Daniel Hooper, 48, AKA Swampy
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.
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.
Dr Maxey has sent a video from inside the secret tunnels talking about the bailiffs’ efforts
Dr Maxey protest against trees from being cut down to make way for a housing development
Geography teacher: Dr Larch Maxey, 48
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.
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.’
Breen – known as Scotty and Digger Down – was seen inside the HS2 tunnel last night
Iain Oliver, Scott Breen and Mark Keir pictured together outside Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court
Reformed drugs runner: Scott Breen, 47, AKA Digger Down
Scotty Breen had been sent to prison for his role in a courier in a heroin deal but absconded in 2007.
He moved in with his girlfriend at Faslane peace camp, getting her pregnant, but was caught after six months on the run.
Little is known about his background, but has moved in political circles and was pictured once with former Green Party candidate Mark Keir.
Since his brush with law he has turned his life around and become a key part of the Extinction Rebellion movement.
He and Keir protested against HS2 back in 2019 locking themselves together with a concrete tube blocking a Hillingdon site.
Lazer, believed to be 20, has filmed video from the tunnel as he protests against HS2
Lazer is understood to be Lachlan Blaze Sandford, brother of another protester Blue Sandford
Juggler: Understood to be called Lachlan Blaze Sandford, 20, AKA Lazer
Lazer is believed to be the brother of Blue Sandford and from the super-wealthy Sandford family.
He is pictured in images alongside his Laird father Roc Sandford, who refers to him as ‘his kids’ in a video of their actions at a precious Extinction Rebellion protest.
He is filmed juggling on a number of occasions on a sparse social media presence but is frequently seen alongside Blue and her sister.
Lazer is understood to have take part in the Jones Hill Wood sitting protests back in March 2020.
He said from the tunnel today of the bailiffs: ‘They have kept us constantly awake via loud noises once they have been dropping dirt on us continuously so we haven’t had a chance to sleep.’
Blue Sandford, 18, had stayed in the tunnels overnight and gave interviews on the protest
Ms Sandford was dubbed Britain’s Greta Thunberg and said she wanted to rewild London
Writer: Blue Sandford, 18, AKA The British Greta Thunberg
The teenager last year brought out her ‘manifesto’ called Challenge Everything: An Extinction Rebellion Youth guide to saving the planet.
And she revealed in an interview promoting the book she had been arrested in September as part of the controversial protest group’s fortnight of action in London.
She said she spent the start of her 17th birthday in a custody cell and a month later was charged with obstruction of the highway. It is not clear what happened with the case.
Ms Sandford, whose real name is Isla, was dubbed Britain’s Greta Thunberg by The Times after doing an interview with them, but later told euronews she did not appreciate the comparison.
In the same chat she said she wanted to ‘rewilding cities like London’ and advocated ‘guerrilla gardening’ to make wild spaces.
The family live part time on the island of Gometra in the Inner Hebrides.
Their aristocratic father gave both Lachlan and Isla presents made from rubbish at Christmas.
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