Farmers urged to take HS2 preparations seriously

The UK government’s decision to continue with high-speed railway project HS2 means farmers must take action to protect themselves during the compulsory purchase process.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday (11 February) that the multibillion-pound rail link would be built following the completion of a government review launched in August, which could have seen it abandoned.

Landowners who have been contacted by HS2 but who did not respond during the uncertainty of the review period must now engage as soon as possible, said Kate Russell, policy and technical adviser at the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers.

See also: Compulsory purchase of farmland: Compensation explained

Phase 2B of the route, which travels north of Birmingham towards Leeds, remains under review and could be combined with the Northern Powerhouse Rail project.

People based in this area have about six months where works on the ground will be limited and should take the opportunity to consider how their home and business may be affected, said Mrs Russell.

“This is a really good time for farmers to sit down with their advisers and go into detail about what the likely impact will be and also to plan for that eventuality,” she said.

“This is not just the land being taken permanently, but also it being taken temporarily during construction of the railway line, as well as environmental elements like ponds and woodland planting.”

Ensuring the alignment of land ownership and occupation is also vital to avoid difficulties during negotiations, such as compensation entitlements being decreased for non-landowners.

“It’s really common, especially with family partnerships, for the landowner to not be the person farming the land,” said Mrs Russell.

“Think about the potential issues and sort what you can now so you’re in a better position for claiming compensation when that comes along.”

Controversial project

HS2 has been criticised for its spiralling costs (from the initial £32.7bn prediction to a recent independent estimate of £106bn) and its lengthening timescale.

The first phase, between London and Birmingham, was due to open at the end of 2026, but transport secretary Grant Shapps said the first trains may not run until some point between 2028 and 2031.

The second phase, to Manchester and Leeds, was due to open in 2032-2033, but this has been pushed back to 2035-2040.

Compulsory purchase compensation has also been a huge issue, with thousands of people already having given up their homes and some farmers waiting up to 10 years for payments.

NFU president Minette Batters said it is vital that HS2 Ltd improves its communication, gives longer notice periods before taking land and pays out fair compensation as quickly as possible to ensure farm businesses are left in a strong, viable position.

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