Not the end of the line for HS2 affected farmers

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has reiterated its commitment to help its Cheshire members affected by the proposed HS2 development.

The organisation has key demands on HS2 and has begun to meet with farmers whose businesses HS2 will adversely affect.High speed train iStock_12952

Key NFU demands on HS2 include:

  • Planning permission: Farmers who are having buildings demolished should be given permitted rights by local authorities to relocate those buildings without any delays.
  • ‘Like for like’ on habitat mitigation: HS2 should negotiate the locations of landscape and habitat areas to preserve the best and most versatile farmland. Quality should be considered over area to be on like for like basis.
  • Interest on compensation payments: Interest should be paid on late compensation payments at 4% above base, minimum.
  • Earthworks: The replacement of soil from the works must be considered carefully to enable farmers to keep fields that are active in growing the nation’s food. Alternative sites must be considered.

Find out what these NFU Cheshire farmers stand to lose from HS2, how they are coping and their desired outcomes.

Frank Cookson of Agden Brook Farm in AltrinchamCheshire member Frank Cookson_40533

The HS2 line will go through Messer Cookson’s mixed farming business. It is predominantly a dairy farming business milking 460 cows. The Cookson family also keep all of the calves, taking the total amount of cattle on the farms at one time to approximately 1,100. As well as dairy, the Cookson family also grow potatoes and cereals.

“I was one of those people who thought HS2 was never going to happen and would quietly go away,” admitted Mr Cookson.

“We’ve kept our heads down and have carried on with the business as if the railway line is never going to come to fruition. But of course it is. The lack of information and uncertainty of the final plans causes anxiety. Originally there was a spur from Golborne to Manchester Airport which crossed our land but it is no longer on the maps. However, we’ve not had written confirmation from HS2 that it’s completely gone away so we cannot really breathe a sigh of relief. Perhaps it will make a comeback in stage three.”

Selling any of his land to HS2 is not an option in Mr Cookson’s opinion. He estimates that he’d receive something in the region of £400,000.

Mr Cookson said: “They are going to destroy a thriving farming business worth a hell of a lot more than that. If I sold the land to them I would never be able to buy it back. I have challenged HS2 to find another farm in a similar position to ours. They haven’t yet. I suspect we’re in a unique position. At the moment we run a dairy farm on a grazing system. When HS2 comes grazing as we have been doing will become impossible.”

John Edge of Wimboldsley Hall and Wimboldsley Grange in MiddlewichCheshire member John Edge_40531

Mr Edge milks 550 cows on 720 acres over two farms in one block of land.

“We initially thought we were going to lose 50 acres of land but we’ve now learned it will be more like 200 acres,” said Mr Edge.

“We are already split by the West Coast mainline and have two accommodation bridges to access 200 acres of our land. HS2 is going to take most of the 200 acres of that productive dairy land from the West Coast mainline to the A530.”

Not only will Mr Edge have to contend with the line, HS2 also want to build a rolling stock depot on his land.

“Mr Edge added: “The depot has come as a bit of a shock. HS2 want to move it further south to my land from Golborne. Locally I’ve picked up the nickname the Fat Controller. Accessing Wimboldsley Hall and Wimboldsley Grange is paramount to us. As it stands we’ll completely lose one access point and we want to keep the two farms as two separate units. We have no wish to amalgamate the two. A block of land 720 acres in size with no roads dividing it up is going to be quite difficult to replace. I also believe that being one block has kept us clear of bovine TB and it’s my intention to keep it that way.

“Going forward we want to try to work with HS2 and stay positive. I have to look for opportunities, especially as I have a 30 year old son who is keen to carry on the business. However, what we are facing is 15 years where we cannot plan, expand or invest. You have to invest on a dairy farm but I don’t want to spend money that cannot be recouped. It’s making us question investment.”

Jeremy Platt of Lea Hall Farm in WimboldsleyCheshire member Jeremy Platt_40532

Mr Platt believes thirty acres of his 230 acre Lea Hall Farm will be affected by the HS2 track and sidings – and that’s not including all of the peripheral land at the side of the finished product which will be unusable.

“It severs the land in two creating an access problem for the unit,” explained Mr Platt.

“The farmstead gets sandwiched between the West Coast mainline and the proposed HS2 route. The perfect outcome for my business would be for HS2 not to happen at all but to think that would be wrong as there is obviously a strong political will for it to happen. Compensation is secondary to the infrastructure consequences of this development. A one off monetary payment comes and goes but you have to live with whatever the consequences are.”

HS2 affects the farm house and young stock unit which rears the replacement heifers for Mr Platt’s two dairy farms with a lot of traffic between the three.

Mr Platt added: “We need to negate that. Will HS2 put in an underpass for me or will they make me travel? We’ll have to wait and see.”

Mr Platt is a neighbour of John Edge of Wimboldsley Hall. Like Mr Edge he’ll also be affected by the proposed rolling stock yard as essential deceleration spurs encroach on his land.

“We’ll end up with our land right next to the rolling stock yard,” explained Mr Platt.

“That will mean we’ll transform from a rural setting into an industrial one, presumably with light and noise blight. The overriding point is HS2 will be an emotional roller-coaster for me with a lot of decisions being made on the hoof by HS2.”

Last edited on: 03:02:2017

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