Fed-up farmer blocks HS2 access to land

Farmer Sam Burton behing gate with protest sign

© Tim Burton

A frustrated farmer has blocked HS2 access across his land over false assurances and unnecessary disruption to his farming activities.

Sam Burton dragged a 5t fallen tree butt with his Agco Challenger tractor in front of the gateway required as an access by HS2 contractors to their proposed earth works trial site.

Mr Burton said his actions were a show of frustration on how many farmers were feeling about the treatment they were receiving from those in charge of the government’s high-speed rail project.

See also: HS2 forces closure of award-winning farm business

“They have got to do better with their relationship with farmers and engage with us. This is a demonstration of how angry farmers are. It’s not the fact that it is HS2, it is just the way it is being done,” he told Farmers Weekly.

The HS2 project will require 36ha of land of the 567ha tenanted Hall Farm, in Wormleighton, near Southam, Warwickshire.

As part of the project, a neighbour’s land has been selected for a “heave trial”, which involves digging a section of proposed deep cutting in the farm’s heavy clay soils to determine how the soils will behave prior to the eventual build of the railway.

Additional land from Mr Burton and his neighbours, Phillip and Ollie Robinson, is also to be taken to deposit the soil.

Mr Burton was given notice of the heave trial in March and told that contractors Eiffage Kier needed to take possession of the trial area on 8 May.

Roman archaeology

The heave trial would involve crossing his wheat field to reach his neighbour’s oilseed rape field. Mr Burton was growing Illustrious milling wheat on contract for Warburtons. He was told the heave trial would be undertaken in the summer and he would be able to claim compensation for any losses from HS2 Ltd.

The dig became delayed after Roman archaeology was found. However, the contractor said they still required some of the area cropped with wheat in early July before harvest and asked Mr Burton if he could do the required topping of the standing crop for them as well as assist them with marking the area of the field required using his tractor GPS system and their co-ordinates, which was duly done.

They agreed to pay him £400 for the work, and said they would do an accurate measure of the lost area so he could claim the crop loss from HS2. 

The wheat harvest came and went and none of the proposed work or fencing off of the site has yet begun. The early removal of a valuable 10t/ha milling wheat crop was unnecessary.

Payment delayed

The contractor did nothing about measuring the lost area, said Mr Burton. “I worked it out to be about six acres but HS2 will just have to take my word for it.”

Mr Burton has still not received any payment for the work he carried out even though during a phone call in mid-August, he was told “the cheque is in the post”.  

Meanwhile, Mr Burton has been told he will have areas of “severed land” on the HS2 plan, which he will not be able to access. He is still waiting for contractors to mark out the site to allow him to cultivate his remaining parts of the fields and plant crops.

“The whole thing is ridiculous,” said Mr Burton. “I have been seriously mucked about over this crop removal, for nothing – and have been given false assurances on being paid for being co-operative and helpful with them so that they can get their job done.”

HS2 Ltd response

An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said: “We appreciate that the negotiations over land access ahead of HS2’s construction can be disruptive and distressing.

Every home, business, and piece of land is unique and we try to work with the people affected to reach agreement, and we recognise that differences in opinion can take time to resolve.  

“We can’t comment on the details of individual matters, but we can confirm that the payment in this case has been made. In all cases we are seeking a fair deal for both landowner and the taxpayer and we work to achieve this as swiftly as possible.”

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