HS2 property bond scheme refusal 'a major blow'
The group said it was “very disappointing” that the HS2 Property Compensation decision document released today does not address the blight suffered by agricultural and rural businesses, or by owners of let properties.
CLA President Henry Robinson said: “The Government has missed the chance to provide a fair system of compensation for farmers, landowners and rural business owners and the opportunity to restore trust in the process.
“It is good that the Government has finally launched a discretionary compensation scheme after many false starts but it is far too narrow for many of those affected.
“Businesses along the route will still be stifled by blight with little opportunity for fair compensation.”
Mr Robinson said: “The CLA has been campaigning for a bond scheme which encompasses both farmers and those suffering blight of their businesses near the line.
“The Express Purchase scheme announced by the Government today will be welcomed by some property owners who are bogged down by existing blight claims.
“Moreover, we are pleased that Government has taken note of our point that the Exceptional Hardship scheme was too restrictive and removed means testing.
“The cash alternatives in the Voluntary Purchase Area, and the proposed Homeowner Payment Scheme need to be extended to land and business owners. We look forward to seeing the details of these schemes.”
Views from the Environmental Audit Committee that the Government needs to show real commitment in dealing with the impact of the proposed HS2 line on the countryside have been welcomed by the NFU today.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said he was pleased that several points raised by the NFU had been acknowledged in the committee’s report. “As the NFU highlighted in its response to the consultation, the committee’s report has noted that mitigation planned away from the line should only be on farmland out of production or of low inherent fertility. We should not see any more productive farm land lost in the development of HS2 than is absolutely necessary. The committee has also highlighted as an example that 250 hectares of woodland lost to the scheme should not by offset by planting 650 hectares of woodland on prime agricultural land.
“We have also said that biodiversity off-setting options should be offered to a voluntary provider – and this could be a farmer. This is where we would like to see HS2 seeking out opportunities as there will be landowners who would welcome areas of habitat creation on their land. This has also been noted in the environmental audit committee’s report.”
The NFU believes that if a woodland is lost rather than simply replacing it with a larger habitat area, the area should be replaced with a habitat area of the same size but with the emphasis on improving quality.
The committee also said that compensation should bring benefits to local people disrupted by the railway. “While we agree this should be the case, we want to see HS2 looking for the best place to develop new habitats and not simply try and replace lost habitats along the HS2 route. It is critical that Government strikes an appropriate balance between what is best for nature and what is best for those affected. We also agree with the committee that money to manage these new habitats needs to be ring-fenced.
“Since the beginning of this process we have argued that these proposals have failed to take into consideration the very real impacts the development of HS2 will have on those agricultural businesses affected.
“While the report said that better safeguards were needed for ancient woodland and wildlife habitats, for example, we have urged them to consider safeguards for productive ‘food-producing’ land so that it is not taken out of farming to create new woodlands and grassy areas especially given the amount of farmland which could already be lost to create the line itself. We must remember, as the report acknowledges, the soils that will be disturbed during the building of this line and associated works will need care and management for at least a decade to restore them back to productivity. At a time when we are seeking to increase food production, the value of agricultural land must be given a clear commitment. ”
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