HS2 Ltd must drastically improve its communication and engagement with farmers affected by the rail project, many of which are left distressed due to uncertainty and mounting financial pressures, the NFU said on Thursday.
The call comes following the publication of a new report¹ from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigating a series of complaints by an NFU member in the West Midlands. The investigation found HS2 was “dishonest, misleading and inconsistent”, and that the organisation “failed to follow its own processes when negotiating compensation claims with the complainant”.
NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “This new report has again thrown into sharp focus what many farming families living on the route of HS2 have to endure day in-day out, year after year; coping with mounting financial pressures and struggling with stress, worries and anxiety, suffering ill-health as a result.
“It is completely unacceptable that the communication, engagement and lack of negotiation between HS2 and farmers remains so very poor. HS2 is still failing to provide relevant information to farmers meaning they are unable to negotiate and conclude their compensation claims.
“We therefore welcome the recommendations of the Parliamentary Ombudsman that HS2 should properly engage with those farmers impacted by the route, be open and transparent and follow the proper due processes.
“As found in this report, our members would be in a more informed position earlier if HS2 responded to concerns over compensation claims sooner. The report also highlights that HS2 failed to provide clear responses. More than anything, our farming members want HS2 to be honest and give clear, useful information.
“The NFU has been asking for some time now for HS2 to address injurious affection² claims and produce habitat mitigation management agreements so that farmers can make decisions on whether they want to retain ownership or have the land purchased permanently by HS2. This choice must be available now to those farmers on Phase 2a of the route.
“We recognise the importance of investing in the nation’s transport infrastructure but it is essential farm businesses are left in a strong, viable condition where land can still be farmed productively. The NFU will continue to represent its members’ interests to ensure they are fairly compensated and that any disruption is kept to a minimum.”