HS2 High Speed Rail Route concept image of the line at Polesworth where it crosses River Anker floodplain© HS2/REX/Shutterstock

The government has been told it should drop plans to allow HS2 Ltd to buy land through compulsory purchase to take advantage of any regeneration or development opportunities alongside the high-speed railway.

A House of Lords committee on the High Speed Rail Bill has said that including such powers in the legislation is “unnecessary and undesirable”.

The comments have been welcomed by the NFU and Country Land and Business Association, which have campaigned hard on the issue.

See also: Interest payment increase for land under compulsory purchase

The CLA said that giving HS2 Ltd such powers, which would not be time-limited, amounted to an “outrageous land-grab”.

CLA president Ross Murray said: “We will now keep the pressure on government to accept these recommendations and ensure they are carried through the remainder of the parliamentary process for the benefit of anyone who owns land and property.”

The report, published on 15 December, said that compulsory purchase powers should be limited to land needed for the railway only.

Report conclusion

It concluded: “The Secretary of State has indicated that the power would be regarded as a power to be used only as a last resort, if commercial negotiations failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

“But in our opinion it is not sound law-making to create wide powers permitting the expropriation of private property on the strength of ministerial statements, not embodied in statute, that the powers would be used only as a last resort.”

The NFU said it was also pleased the committee had recognised that it was important HS2 Ltd acquired land on a temporary basis, and not permanently, if it is not needed on a permanent basis by HS2 Ltd.

But it said there were a number of areas where it was disappointed that the committee had not gone further.

Lost infrastructure

For example, there is concern about how long it will take for farmers to get planning permission to replace lost infrastructure on their farms.

“The NFU is disappointed that the committee has only stated in regard to planning matters for replacement buildings and the removal of hedgerows that they urge local planning authorities to deal with these matters promptly and sympathetically. We wanted to see a much stronger steer on this,” it said.

It was also worried that peers had not requested that HMRC extend the Capital Gains Tax rollover period beyond three years.

The union has warned that, with numerous farmers seeking to find new land in the same district, there may be a serious shortage of land available.

Compensation

Also, while the report acknowledged that a new section in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 was likely to mean that landowners were paid 8% interest on any late compensation payments, this was only on advance payments.

“It is disappointing that the committee did not pick up on [the fact] that interest needs to be payable on final payments,” said the union.

The Department of Transport is expected to respond to the recommendations made in the report early in the New Year.

The Bill will then receive further debate in the House of Lords before becoming law in the Spring.

Construction for Phase One of the HS2 route is likely to commence in 2017.