HS2: Farmers offered help to have concerns heard in Parliament

Landowners and farmers who stand to be affected by the HS2 rail link are being given help to make sure their views are heard by parliament.

Farmers who have lodged an individual petition against the HS2 Hybrid Bill will get the chance to air their views within parliament next month.

The HS2 Select Committee, which has powers to make changes to the Bill, is expected to begin hearing evidence in mid-October from farmers in support of individual petitions they lodged before June.

NFU president Meurig Raymond chaired a meeting at Stoneleigh on Friday (12 September) for farmers affected by HS2, a controversial £50bn government high-speed rail project that will link London and Birmingham, with a planned extension to Manchester and Leeds to follow.

See also: HS2 land-grab excessive, say landowners

Over the past few months, the NFU has supported its members through its Legal Assistance Scheme in the preparation of their petitions against the Bill.

During the meeting, union advisers explained the process and procedure for giving evidence to the committee.

Mr Raymond said: “The select committee will hear all individual circumstances which could result in changes to the Bill.

“There is no substitute for the committee hearing directly from individual farmers and growers about the impact HS2 will have on their farm businesses.

“This evidence will create a stronger case for all farmers and growers and help to achieve better compensation and mitigation.”

Andrea Graham, the NFU’s head of policy, said the uncertainty and the potential effect of HS2 on farm businesses was “hanging over” farmers, who were feeling unable to plan ahead.

NFU members affected by HS2 were finding it hard to make decisions to invest in their businesses over the coming years, she added.

“The more HS2 Ltd [the government-owned company behind the scheme] can negotiate and have conversations with farmers about the disruption it could cause their businesses, the better it will be for everyone,” she said.

Ms Graham said HS2 must have minimum disruption to farming and food production and any environmental mitigation, such as habitat creation and tree-planting, should be “like for like”.

Going forward, the NFU also wants HS2 Ltd to make sure those farmers affected receive the right duty of care.

“Farmers need to know they have the right person to go to if they feel something is wrong,” said Ms Graham. “For example, it could be that there is a bridge put in which does not support a tractor.”

Last week, HS2 Ltd published a number of additional amendments to the Bill.

The company said the changes, which included minor changes to the proposed route, were made “to accommodate the requirements of landowners”.

The CLA welcomed the attempt to address landowners’ concerns over HS2, but said action should have taken place sooner.

CLA president Henry Robinson said: “Many of the proposed alterations are changes HS2 Ltd should have known about much earlier and relate to access to the railway and utilities.

“If HS2 Ltd had done its homework correctly and engaged with landowners sooner these would have been apparent a long time ago and could have saved time, money and stress on behalf of those whose livelihoods are being affected by the rail line.”

The HS2 rail link is supposed to bridge the North-South divide. If the project is built, the first train services will run between London and Birmingham.

The HS2 Select Committee will hear from many petitioners before making a ruling in 2015.

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