Landowners welcome extra time to consider HS2 documentation

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Rural business leaders have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that more time will be available to them to consider the impact of the controversial high speed rail project.

The Country Land and Business Association said the extension of the HS2 Environmental Statement response deadline allows more time for its consideration but claimed that the document “still ignores the impact HS2 will have on landowners who are increasingly losing land”.

The confirmation came after the Supreme Court roundly rejected attempts by campaigners to block the scheme, which is designed to halve journey times between Yorkshire and London.

CLA president Henry Robinson said: “The Environmental Statement should not only show the exact location and extent of each habitat being taken, but also justify the area that is required to mitigate that particular impact. Every acre taken as environmental mitigation is an acre taken out of economic productivity forever.

“It must be clear to landowners exactly what habitat is being lost, its value, and where the replacement habitat is being provided and why. If this is information cannot be interrogated on a holding by holding basis landowners will be disadvantaged in making their representations.

“Compulsory purchase should still be a last resort, particularly where commercial solutions may be available through biodiversity offsetting.”

A CLA spokesman said: “The extra time gives landowners the opportunity to consider the 50,000-page document which looks at environmental issues and details environmental mitigation measures.

“But the document does not give sufficient detail on how individual habitat mitigation will be delivered and why the use of compulsory purchase is necessary.”

The extension is the second time in a week that people have been given more time to respond to the consultation on the environmental impact of HS2.

CLA chief surveyor Andrew Shirley added: “We have several members who were initially losing a little land, but now the amount has ballooned from the initial drawing through to the draft and the final statement – all in the name of environmental mitigation.

“While there may be a desire to deliver what has been described as the ‘greenest railway’, this should not be achieved at the expense of landowners.

“The HS2 Bill gives extra powers for HS2 Ltd to grab more land for development and regeneration, as well as sweeping access provisions over phase two which is not even part of this Bill,” said Mr Shirley.