Saturday 24 February, 2024

Farmers left 'suicidal' amid ongoing HS2 chaos

MPs told Government is 'dragging its heels' over promises to re-sell land and clear sites following HS2 cancellation

clock • 3 min read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak annouced cancellation of HS2 in October
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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak annouced cancellation of HS2 in October

Landowners and farmers have been left feeling ‘suicidal' owing to the lack of action by the Government following the cancellation of the HS2 trainline, MPs have been told.

Rail consultant Trevor Parkin, who has also co-authored several technical papers relating to HS2, told Members of the Commons' Transport Select Committee he believed HS2 Ltd officials were ‘dragging their feet' and added that they could be hoping for ‘another policy U-turn following a General Election'.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced at the Conservative Party Conference in October, the high-speed rail line would not be continuing beyond Birmingham. This has left more than 2,900 acres of land purchased between Birmingham and Crewe abandoned alongside property on the final leg to Manchester thought to be worth around £400 million of public money.

"Since the announcement by the Prime Minister, there is not only no communication from HS2 - or more minimal communication saying ‘we're still looking at the implications of the decision' - but there' i no evidence of removal of any of their paraphernalia from any of these sites," Mr Parkin told MPs.

He said: "We are in touch with quite a lot of landowners, and the landowners are pulling their hair out about this. Some people have not had any payment. They have had their land compulsory purchased without any payment. 

"They cannot get access to areas of their land. They are extremely inconvenienced. Some of these people are suicidal by the way that they have been treated because it is just deplorable." 

See also: Six answers to common questions following cancellation of HS2

Mr Parkin's comments were echoed at a recent meeting of Staffordshire and Chesire NFU members in Crewe, where farmers talked of being in ‘limbo' and being confused by the many rules which surround the reselling or disposal of land.

Sarah Faulkner, NFU Midlands policy manager, said: "Many farming families living along the route of HS2 north of Birmingham are still in limbo and enduring huge upheaval to their lives and uncertainty for their farming futures.

"We now need to see HS2 Ltd provide relevant information to farmers as to how land will be offered back, the process for buying it back and at what rate.

"For many businesses overdue compensation payments are also an ongoing issue."

HS2 Limited, which was responsible for the construction of the line has said the decisions now rest with the Department for Transport. It said it was expected to take time to ensure the programme provided value for money for taxpayers and did not disrupt local property markets.  

See also: NFU demands end to Hs2 land grab

According to the Department for Transport, all sales will be in accordance with Treasury rules on the use of public money. It has also said many properties will be offered back to their former owners at the current market value, under longstanding Crichel Down rules.

A spokesperson for the department said: "We are developing a clear programme for selling land no longer needed for HS2 and will set out more details in due course.

"We will ensure our approach provides value for the taxpayer and will fully engage with the communities who are affected throughout this process."

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