HS2 campaigner ‘greatly encouraged’ by committee’s response

Joe Rukin
Joe Rukin

A leading campaigner against HS2 says he is ‘greatly encouraged’ by the way a committee of MPs have adjudicated on the plans so far.

Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin was commenting after the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee told the government to revise plans concerning the compulsory acquisition of farmland.

Up until now, HS2 Ltd had proposed to use compulsory purchase powers to buy all land needed for construction on a permanent basis, even if they only wanted it on a temporary basis during the construction of the rail line, which would cut through the Vale.

However, the committee heard that this would impact the viability of a lot of farms. Farmers would lose the production value of the land yet not be entitled to compensation, while the sale of the land would be subject to capital gains tax. Buying the land and selling it back also removes the obligation on HS2 to give it back in a fit state.

On Wednesday, Robert Syms MP, the chair of the committee, said: “A number of petitioners, including the Country Landowners Association, the National Farmers Union and Joe Rukin have argued persuasively on farm land-take.

“We may come back to these broad issues, but we encourage HS2 to work up a licence model, whereby farmers can retain a right of access and inspection onto land being acquired temporarily.

“HS2 should collaborate with a cross-section of affected parties and stakeholders on suitable terms for that model licence, and clearly that would avoid some of the tax problems that we’ve heard earlier already. I think that is the direction that HS2, I think, want to go, but we’ve just given you a nudge in that direction as well.”

Mr Rukin said: “We are greatly encouraged by way the committee of MPs adjudicating on the HS2 plans have responded so far.

“They have agreed that the way HS2 Ltd wanted to deal with farmers was unfair. With HS1 it wasn’t until the process got to the House of Lords that a similar decision was made, so the fact they have agreed that it is wrong to take away land that is only wanted for construction purposes, without compensation for loss of earnings, so early in the process is a great sign, and on top of the decision to have a tunnel at Lichfield, this will give petitioners renewed hope that the committee may well rule in their favour.”