HS2 must work with landowners to find the right land or risk failing the environment, says CLA

12 May 2016

The CLA has warned that work to offset the environmental impact of HS2 Phase 2 will waste taxpayers’ money and harm small rural businesses without delivering the anticipated environmental benefits, unless HS2 Ltd works with rural landowners to identify the right plots of land to compulsorily purchase for environmental mitigation.

The CLA represents 33,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses, including many of the individual rural landowners affected by HS2. It is calling on HS2 Ltd to recognise that environmental mitigation work will have greater benefits on sites with supportive features – such as connections with existing wildlife corridors – rather than on land that is arbitrarily allocated because it is right next to the railway line, regardless of its features or agricultural productivity.

The message was set out in the CLA’s response to a Government consultation on assessing the environmental impact of HS2 Phase 2a (West Midlands to Crewe), ahead of the intended introduction of a hybrid Bill to Parliament in 2017.

CLA President Ross Murray said: “Rather than arbitrarily allocating land right next to the railway line, regardless of its features or agricultural productivity, creating new habitats for wildlife is more likely to be successful on land that is well connected with existing wildlife corridors. Similarly the benefits of planting trees can be greater when the trees add to an established woodland. We are calling on HS2 Ltd to work with landowners at an early stage of the process to identify the most suitable environmental mitigation sites so that taxpayers’ money can be better spent and a lot of additional stress and heartache can be avoided for the landowners.”

“Government and HS2 Ltd have an opportunity here to learn from mistakes made during Phase 1, not least when it comes to the compulsory purchase of land to offset environmental impact. It should be common sense for HS2 Ltd to work with those that know the local land the best – those that own and manage it – to identify which parcels of land will allow the greatest benefits for the environment and wildlife while minimising the disruption to the business that is losing it.”