Farmers and growers should lodge petitions to the high-speed rail link Bill ahead of a key deadline in Parliament, writes NFU rural surveyor Louise Staples.

There are only days left until the 23 May deadline for farmers, directly or specially affected by the HS2 developments, to petition the points they are against in the HS2 hybrid bill. The petitions will be heard by the select committee.

By petitioning the Bill, it gives all farmers the formal right for their views to be heard within Parliament and allow individual cases to be put forward and highlighted to the select committee. Petitioning is extremely important, as hearing the direct impact HS2 will have on individual farm businesses will create a stronger case for all farmers and growers and help to achieve better compensation and mitigation.

However, while the select committee will consider all petitions and hear all individual circumstances, it cannot cancel the HS2 Hybrid Bill but it does have the power to make changes to the Bill.

The NFU is submitting a petition on behalf of its farmer members, who will be impacted by HS2, and the petition highlights all the issues that affect rural businesses and communities. Listed below are the key petitioning points being made by the NFU:

What the NFU is petitioning for?

  • The NFU believes that the compulsory purchase code is too complex and has limited ability in practice to put the claimants back into the position they would have been in if it were not for the scheme. Any farmer or landowner affected must be compensated promptly and fairly for any land they will lose to the HS2 Hybrid Bill
  • Temporary possession of land is a concern for the NFU, as it is to be acquired permanently for a temporary purpose. Land that is needed only temporarily during the construction phase should only be taken on a construction lease by HS2.
  • There are concerns of compulsory acquisition of land for regeneration and relocation by the Secretary of State. The NFU will be objecting to this clause as it is important that individuals can benefit from any opportunity for regeneration or development that may arise from the scheme.
  • The NFU is concerned with the amount of productive land that is to be taken out of primary agricultural production. Landowners and farmers may understand the loss of land for the construction of the line itself but not for environmental mitigation which is sited away from the proposed line. We believe that environmental mitigation should be “like for like” and the Hybrid Bill should not be a mechanism to create bigger and better mitigation measures. The NFU believes that there should be direct negotiations with landowners regarding such mitigation
  • Furthermore, where land severance is prolific, the NFU wish to highlight the importance of HS2 Ltd making sure that landowners and farmers have good access to all their land through accommodation works including bridges and underpasses across the proposed line. To remain viable, farm businesses will need access to all severed land. These areas should not automatically be planted with trees.
  • The construction of the line will cause the demolition of many farmhouses and agricultural buildings. The NFU wishes to state that where there is agricultural infrastructure demolition, the farmer needs certainty in the ability that planning consent for replacement buildings will be granted.
  • Tax issues that will arise due to the compulsory purchase of land for HS2 should be exempt. The NFU would like HS2 to acknowledge the exceptional circumstances in which members affected by HS2 will be impacted.
  • The NFU will be objecting to the clause which would allow anyone connected to HS2 to have rights to enter land 500m from the line for surveying, which includes the proposed line for Phase 2.

So what can you do now?

With a few days to go, you can still draft your own petition and obtain a draft petition to populate through the legal assistance team at the NFU HQ. There is a fee of £20 to deposit your petition, which has to be carried out in person. You can also use your local MP or a professional representative or if you are a NFU member, our Parliamentary agent Sharpe Pritchard to submit the petition.

Please be aware that 23 May is the final day for petitioning the Hybrid Bill. Don’t leave it to the end of the deadline.