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NFU encouraged by HS2 Committee Chair’s letter to the Secretary of State

The Chairman of the HS2 Select Committee, Robert Syms, has written to the Secretary of State this week, asking that a set of planning guidelines be agreed to deal with specific rebuilding problems raised by the NFU at its evidence giving session in the House of Commons last month.

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The Chairman of the HS2 Select Committee, Robert Syms, has written to the Secretary of State this week, asking that a set of planning guidelines be agreed to deal with specific rebuilding problems raised by the NFU at its evidence giving session in the House of Commons last month.

The issue is that farmers who have their buildings compulsorily purchased by HS2 could run into difficulties with planning authorities when trying to rebuild replacement farm houses and agricultural buildings on a different part of their land. There is great uncertainty as to whether planning applications will be approved and there would be long delays if a case goes to appeal. The NFU is concerned that farm businesses will not be able to withstand delays to replacing farm buildings which might be to provide livestock housing, grain and potato storage.

In his letter to the Rt Hon Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Mr Syms said: “…local planning policy for this area of green belt means permission to build will be granted only upon demolition of the existing farmhouses, the policy being that there should be no net gain in accommodation.”

Mr Syms goes on to say: “Applying a planning policy too rigidly ignores the special circumstances arising from construction of the railway: a policy of protecting green belt might sensibly be adjusted to allow for individual buildings to be retained where they remain useful and where the new buildings have been essentially forced on those affected as a way to remain in the area while reducing the impact of the railway. Could a set of guidelines be agreed to deal with such situations?”

NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Planning for replacement buildings was one of the key issues we raised when we made our presentation to the Select Committee in November. We are encouraged by the Chairman’s letter to the Secretary of State requesting specific planning guidelines. It would clearly be unfair for farmers and their families who are losing their homes to HS2 to struggle with red tape when attempting to rebuild on their own land.”

 

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