Successful lobbying by the NFU and others has seen Peers reject attempts by Government to allow HS2 Ltd to buy land through compulsory purchase to develop projects which are unrelated to the construction of the high speed rail line.
A report by the House of Lords Select Committee on the High Speed Rail Bill (London-West Midlands) has made the recommendation. It states “in our opinion it is not sound law-making to create wide powers permitting the expropriation of private property on the strength of ministerial statements, not embodied in statute, that the powers would be used only as a last resort.”
From the start of petitioning the NFU had stated that these powers were unnecessary and that the Secretary of State should not be able to acquire land outside the Bill limits for development purposes.
The Committee also highlighted a point the NFU made during evidence sessions in both the Lords and House of Commons that there may be a serious shortage of land available as numerous farmers will be seeking to find land in the same area.
“The NFU is pleased that the Committee has recognised the importance that HS2 Ltd acquire land on a temporary basis and do not acquire land permanently if it is not needed on a permanent basis by HS2 Ltd. The NFU welcomes the three points that the Committee think should be taken into account in the process of refinement.
- Uncertainty and how HS2 should do all it can to engage with those who are still in a state of uncertainty about how their land is to be taken.
- Land taken for temporary use where development opportunities might be created and therefore not offered back to the original owners. This needs to be highlighted and agreements reached.
- Land taken and offered back under the Crichel Down rules that the Secretary of State does not add further exceptions whereby the original owner is not given first refusal to reacquire the land at its then market value.
“The report also picked up on how the NFU highlighted the need for interest on late payments and that this has been met by section 196 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and that the interest is likely to be eight per cent. But this is only on advance payments and it is disappointing that the Committee did not pick up on that interest needs to be payable on final payments.
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“The Committee has realised and highlighted how important accommodation works are to the farmers and emphasised how HS2 has said that it is important that farmers requirements are clearly identified and agreed in advance of the construction phase. The NFU is concerned that for this to be achieved HS2 must hold more one to one meetings with affected farmers on the route and start negotiating in detail.
“The NFU is disappointed that the Committee has only stated in regard to planning matters for replacement buildings and the removal of hedgerows that they urge local planning authorities to deal with these matters promptly and sympathetically. We wanted to see a much stronger steer on this.”
The Committee has picked up on how Capital Gains Tax could be an issue as it will be chargeable on the gain from the sale or disposal and how HMRC may as a matter of administrative concession allow a longer period than three years to roll over if they think it is necessary. This has always been our request that HMRC should guarantee this longer period to rollover so it is disappointing that the Committee have not requested this.
The NFU is concerned that the Committee has highlighted that any CGT payable would be allowed as an element of the compensation payable and has further stated this for IHT. While we are pleased that HS2 has again confirmed that these tax liabilities may form part of compensation, the problem here is that landowners will first have to demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to mitigate the liability.