The government is consulting over proposed changes to the 37-mile stretch of the HS2 route that runs from the West Midlands to Crewe and is expected to have a significant impact on more than 50 farms.
It follows changes put forward by the Department of Transport, which include extending a tunnel at Crewe, moving the spur lines that will connect the HS2 to the West Coast mainline and building a temporary depot near Stone.
According to what is described as a “working” environmental impact assessment (EIA), it is estimated that 1,730ha of agricultural land will be required during the construction of the route – known as Phase 2a.
The EIA says that some farmers will experience “severe adverse severance impacts”, with a number of farms seeing land cut off, particularly during the construction phase.
Overall, there are thought to be 58 farms facing “significant adverse effects”, with some losing land on a temporary basis and others facing permanent losses.
On one stretch of the route – from Colwich to Yarlet – seven agricultural holdings are also facing the demolition of buildings and three may lose residential premises. Noise could also be a problem in some areas.
In addition, the scheme will include the permanent loss of about 6.5ha of ancient woodland, 114km of hedgerows and 158 ponds.
Engage with consultation process
Liz Farrall, senior surveyor for Fisher German, said it was important for affected farmers to engage with the consultation process and, with the support of professional advisers, start talking to HS2 about the implications for their business.
“It’s no good sitting back and waiting for them to take the land at the appropriate time. If land is being severed, then you might need to put up additional livestock buildings or you might need to start looking elsewhere for land,” she said.
“There are a raft of implications if new buildings are needed – for example, having to fund it and service a loan. These are all questions that people need to be asking HS2 about.”
Tony Rimmer of Rostons agreed that now was the time for farmers to be proactive and start engaging with the process. Up until now engagement had been “very limited”.
Although the scheme would not get the definite go-ahead until a Hybrid Bill received Royal Assent, the government has indicated it wants to deposit the Bill in Parliament during 2017.
“I think it [the scheme] is probably going to happen, but it may not.”
Mr Rimmer said assuming construction did go ahead, some landowners would be facing major issues, with the route completely splitting the farm in some cases.
“People have to start thinking about how they are going to work around it.”
The deadline for responding to the consultations is 7 November.
The government hopes to start construction of the route in 2020, with a view to the line being operational by 2027.