NFU members are again calling on government to ensure HS2 has a minimum disruption to farming and food production as the crucial second reading of the HS2 Bill to approve the railway project gets underway today.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said the NFU continues to call on ministers to ensure the business case for HS2 is clarified given its impact on farms and the countryside.
“We are aware from the Environmental Statement published last autumn that there are 213 agricultural holdings directly affected by HS2 Ltd developments along the proposed route from London to the West Midlands” he said. “These agricultural holdings vary hugely in size and type but are united by the uncertainty HS2 has created for the individuals and those businesses involved.
“We recognize the importance of investing in the nation’s transport infrastructure. However it is vital that farm businesses are treated fairly with enhanced compensation paid promptly to redress the damage done to those along the line. We need far greater clarity from HS2 Ltd regarding the economic gains of the promised enhanced connectivity, particularly for rural communities, if our members are going to see any benefit from the building of HS2 Phase 1.
“We are getting to a crucial stage in this process now but there are still many grey areas. HS2 presents an unacceptable treble hit for farmers. Firstly, essential farmland is already being lost to the HS2 line; secondly, larger areas which have been highlighted for habitat creation and tree planting will take valuable food-producing land out of production; and thirdly, far more new habitat is being imposed than is being lost on a questionable ‘bigger is better’ principle. It is absolutely essential that government finds a balance between what is best for nature and what is best for agriculture.
“It is also essential, once the construction of the line has been completed, farm businesses are left in a strong, viable condition where land can still be farmed productively. Land severance must be kept to an absolute minimum and where it is unavoidable HS2 Ltd must ensure farmers have access to appropriate infrastructure such as drainage systems, water supply, bridges and underpasses enabling their businesses to function.
“HS2 Ltd also needs to do more to make sure all farmers have been contacted and properly informed so they fully appreciate the impact on their businesses. We continue to question the public investments in HS2; it should offer a positive return for all concerned,” said Mr Raymond.
The NFU has a number of ongoing concerns about HS2 and is calling for Government to:
• Implement a binding and comprehensive duty of care that sets standards and timescales for the conduct of HS2, its contractors and sub-contractors during construction.
• Appoint an independent ombudsman to swiftly resolve breaches to this duty of care.
• Incorporate a substantial programme of ‘accommodation works’ within HS2 construction plans to minimise long term impacts on farm businesses. This means ensuring farms are left in a strong viable condition and with appropriate infrastructure and access such as water supply, drainage and bridges
• Promptly pay enhanced compensation reflecting the dislocation, distress and income lost as a result of the project.
• Consult regularly and honestly with farmers and growers and their representatives throughout the project.
Hear a farmer’s story:
To learn more about the impact of HS2 on farming please click here.
The Global Miller
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