The NFU has urged the HS2 Select Committee this week to cater for the hundreds of farm businesses blighted by the construction of High Speed 2.
Pictured L-R are the NFU's Andrea Graham, President Meurig Raymond, Louise Staples, Andrew Clark and Michael Parker
Pictured L-R areJames Findlay QC and Alastair Lewis Parliamentary agent of Sharpe Pritchard
The NFU's evidence, given over two days, explained to the Committee the far reaching impact of the HS2 project on farmers and highlighted the glaring inadequacy of the compulsory purchase code.
The NFU believes that the Committee can take steps to cure elements of the Code and prevent poor interpretation, meaning a better chance of achieving 'full and fair' compensation being paid.
The NFU has already secured a commitment from HS2 to provide a 24/7 Agricultural Liaison Officer during construction. However, we have also argued that a clear undertaking must be given that where a contractor causes damage to a farmer’s property, there should be a nominated ombudsman to go to, with the powers to assess the issue.
The NFU also demanded substance in HS2’s assurance on 'providing assistance' to farmers in several areas, including obtaining planning permission for replacement buildings and support to rationalise fragmented fields. The NFU made clear to the Committee that farmers needed the certainty of planning permission rather than broad statements of support.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Farm businesses are simply not transportable. For this reason the NFU wants an assurance of reasonable certainty for planning permission for farmers affected by HS2, as well as a nominated ombudsman to settle claims simply where property is damaged by HS2's contractors.
“A major area of concern for our members is unplanned Capital Gains Tax liabilities that arise when land is compulsory purchased. Unless those assets can be replaced, farmers face significant tax charges. Today the NFU have asked the Committee to consider a number of options including exemption, extending time limits for reinvestment or further compensation.
“We also want proper consultation with farmers before deciding land take for mitigation, to avoid taking productive farmland - they know their land best. The area proposed so far is excessive, and we have questioned why we have no information about how these areas are calculated. The mitigation should be decided on quality rather than quantity and negotiated location which preserves the best and most versatile farmland. The same is true for soil bunds, balancing ponds and flood storage areas.
“Throughout the evidence HS2 has committed to work with the NFU and relevant authorities to help farmers minimise impact and the Committee appears to have considerable sympathy with a number of our concerns.”
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Watch the session from Tuesday 18 November below:
Watch the session from Wednesday 19 November below: