The NFU has urged HS2 to treat farming communities fairly as the first phase of HS2 receives Royal Assent.
The NFU said it will hold HS2 to the assurances it has made to mitigate the effects of construction on farm businesses. Notices to farmers will be served by this spring to take land under temporary occupation, which enables HS2 to access land and begin construction of the line between London and Birmingham.
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “As HS2 starts construction, we want to send a strong reminder to HS2 and its contractors to abide to its binding duty of care and consider the impact on farmers’ homes and livelihoods.
“Regular communication between HS2 and farmers from this point on is critical. The NFU sees one-to-one meetings with farmers as an essential part of this. If HS2 does not get this right, they could put the viability of farm businesses at severe risk.
“The NFU has secured an assurance from HS2 that an agricultural liaison officer will be in place before construction starts and that contact details will be provided to landowners. This officer needs to be in place now to play an important part in explaining to farmers what is going to happen over the next few months.
“Farmers need time to plan to be able to mitigate the impact before land is taken and so as much notice as possible must be given to our members before temporary possession. The NFU is urging HS2 to give far more than the 28 days’ notice before entry is taken on to any land – three months’ notice should be rolled out for all land take.
“The NFU will hold HS2 to account on its liability to farmers and rural business owners for its contractors and sub-contractors actions. And this also applies to the acquisition teams employed by HS2 to follow the same principles.
“HS2 has said that communities will get appropriate support and are treated with fairness, compassion and respect and that they recognise the massive sacrifice being made by farmers. The NFU will continue to make sure that HS2 will do all it can to mitigate the effect of construction of the line on farm businesses going forward.”
The NFU is looking to HS2 to:
- Implement a binding and comprehensive duty of care that sets standards and timescales for the conduct of HS2, its contractors and sub-contractors during construction
- Appoint an independent ombudsman to swiftly resolve breaches to this duty of care
- Incorporate a substantial programme of ‘accommodation works’ within HS2 construction plans to minimise long term impacts on farm businesses. This means ensuring farms are left in a strong viable condition and with appropriate infrastructure and access such as water supply, drainage and bridges
- Promptly pay enhanced compensation reflecting the dislocation, distress and income lost as a result of the project
- Consult regularly and honestly with farmers and growers and their representatives throughout the project.