HS2 statement ‘fails to assess impact on farming’

The CLA has accused the government of plotting a despicable land grab of farmland “on the cheap” in its plans to build a new high-speed rail link.

“This is the second great train robbery,” said the CLA’s deputy president Ross Murray.

See also HS2 compensation ‘fails to address blight on farming’

He spoke out after the Department for Transport requested comments on an environmental statement for the £42bn high-speed rail route for HS2 Phase One, between London and the West Midlands.

The opportunity to comment on the HS2 Environmental Statement, which was published in November, ended on Thursday (27 February). Consultation responses will be summarised by an independent assessor.

Mr Murray said the White Paper sets out “excessive and poorly justified” land take for environmental mitigation, which failed to take into account the “huge impact on farmers and landowners”.

He added: “While 80 pages of the statement is dedicated to bats, there is little mitigating impact on the 300 or so farmers who are suffering now with the stress of losing their land, homes, buildings and livelihoods.

He also raised concerns about the “unnecessary destruction” of farmland through the compulsory purchase system, despite continual requests for the government to minimise land take.

The NFU agreed that the statement significantly underestimates the true impact of HS2 on farming and the future viability of individual farm businesses.

Andrew Clark, NFU head of policy services, said it was important all farmers involved were aware of the distinction between land needed for the railway itself and land being taken to create wildlife habitats to offset HS2’s environmental impact.

“First, the significant areas that have been highlighted for habitat creation and tree planting will be taking land out of agricultural production. This is unacceptable, given that farmland is already being lost to the HS2 line,” he added.

“Second, we would also argue that any new habitat created should simply replace what is lost, not create vast new areas building on the bigger and better principle.”

According to the NFU, confusion may also lie in the difference between temporary and permanent effects of HS2 as set out in the statement.

“It is essential the amount of land being taken permanently and temporarily should be clearly highlighted,” Dr Clarke added.

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