The NFU has accused the government of a “lack of engagement” with farmers over its plans to roll out the high-speed rail project HS2.
Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Limited, wants to speed up work on the northern phase two section of the £50bn project.
In a report published on Monday (17 March), called HS2 Plus, Sir David, the former head of the London Olympics 2012 Delivery Authority, said the project should be fast-tracked to include a 43-mile stretch to Crewe six years earlier than planned.
The move would see trains running on the Birmingham to Crewe area by 2027. Phase two of the project would then be finished by 2030, instead of 2033.
Sir David said the government should “accelerate phase two as soon as possible”.
However, the NFU said plans to speed up HS2 had increased its “serious concerns” over the route – and raised further the need to engage with and understand the effect on farmers.
The union said it was increasingly concerned about the lack of time available to consult on how HS2 might have an effect of farmers’ businesses, their ability to make allowances for the effects on habitat – such as tree planting and grass meadows – especially given there was still no clear indication about where the route would pass between Birmingham and Crewe.
Andrew Clark, NFU head of policy services, said: “We are worried over a distinct lack of engagement with the farming community which will be directly affected by the proposed route, as well as the government’s refusal to consider prompt and adequate compensation for farming livelihoods damaged by this national project.
“HS2 really needs to do more to ensure all farmers and landowners are contacted and properly informed so they fully appreciate the effect on their businesses.”
Referring to the experience under phase one of the HS2 consultation, Dr Clark said farmers and landowners had only become fully aware of how much land was likely to be taken from their holdings after the publication of the Environmental Consultation statement.
The CLA responded to Sir David’s report by saying that extending the train route should be considered alongside the introduction of a Property Bond Scheme to help landowners, farmers and other businesses that will suffer the loss of land, buildings and homes.