Farmers’ HS2 concerns ‘still not being heard’

The concerns of farmers along the proposed high speed rail HS2 route are not being heard, say farming groups.

The government has tabled a motion in parliament instructing the HS2 Select Committee to consider more than 120 tweaks along the proposed route.

However, the NFU is concerned that the proposed changes to the HS2 hybrid Bill do not fully recognise the impact on farmers, landowners and rural businesses.

See also: HS2 farmers need better deal, say MPs

The union has called for a fair compulsory purchase system for farmers whose land is being bought to build the project.

But so far it said it had not received assurances that farm businesses impacted by the proposed scheme would be left in a “strong, viable condition” and that land could be farmed productively once the construction of the line is completed.

Among other things, the NFU is calling for farmers to be able to relocate agricultural buildings and farmhouses and permitted development rights to be granted and HS2 being liable for the actions of their contractors and subcontractors to minimise the long-term impact on businesses.

The CLA, which represents 33,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses in England and Wales, said the uncertainty created by the current land purchase system was causing serious concerns.

CLA South East regional director Robin Edwards said: “Now is the time to put in place compulsory purchase rules that are fit for the 21st century and that recognise the impact of these schemes on farmers, landowners and rural businesses. 

“Currently these businesses face years of terrible uncertainty and bitter disputes, but much of this can be avoided by placing them at the centre of the decision-making process rather than ancillary to that process. 

“If this issue is not addressed, many of the major infrastructure projects can only be delivered in the timeframes set out in the £466bn National Infrastructure Plan by riding roughshod over individuals and small businesses, causing huge financial loss and unfathomable emotional stress.”

The government announced plans for the new national high-speed rail network, HS2, in March 2010. Phase 1 of the route, from London to West Midlands, is currently before the select committee in the House of Commons.

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