Farmer who lost land for cancelled HS2 has not received compensation

Farmer who lost land for cancelled HS2 has not received compensation

A farmer who lost 40 acres of his land to make way for the now axed HS2 route has revealed that he has still not received any compensation after it was acquired by a compulsory purchase order. Bernard Kettle, 82, who owns Bower End farm in Madeley, Staffordshire, had 40 acres of his 100-acre site compulsory purchased for the planned Phase 2a up to Crewe in February. He said that should be compensated with around £25,000 per acre after the plans were first delayed and later shelved, fuming: ‘I haven’t received a penny.’ Planners decided that a tunnel would need to go under his land and a compound built for where it exited the earth. Mr Kettle had 500 cattle and crops galore but said he was left with nothing but a mud bath.

It comes after the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 was abandoned by Rishi Sunak at the Tory conference last week. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours, Mr Kettle said his land had been ‘decimated’, adding: ‘We’ve had what they call early works where they’ve come on and fenced off the fields into small paddocks … and it’s just a mud bath now.’ Mr Kettle is furious because HS2 value his land at £10,000 per acre but the cost now is nearer to £25,000 per acre, meaning if he wanted to buy it back he would struggled to afford it. He said he has had no money despite work already starting such as digging newt ponds, spraying grass, planting trees with root balls still in plastic bags and putting 11ft high fencing around the trees to protect them from the deer. ‘I’ve been on the farm for 50 years and I have yet to see a deer,’ he quipped. In light of the northern leg of HS2 being cancelled, Mr Kettle said: ‘It leaves me in limbo because they served a compulsory purchase order.

So the land effectively belongs to the Secretary of State. ‘They’ve taken 40 acres and I am left with about 50 acres, but the problem is getting access to the 50 acres because of the erected fencing and I’ve got 67 gates across my farm to get through.’ Mr Kettle continued: ‘I was dealing with a load of idiots because there was no common sense about what they were doing. They were digging newt ponds and when the two-year delay came they backfilled them all. When quizzed on how much he stood to earn from the compulsory purchase order, he said: ‘Market value – 25,000 per acre. They also purchased my drive and stable block where my wife kept a horse. The driveway I access now via a license issued by the Secretary of State. ‘I haven’t received a penny. The purchase of the driveway by the Secretary of State has diminished the value of my domestic property.’

Sarah Beer, a specialist in compulsory purchase orders at Excello Law, explained the difficulties with the ongoing negotiations. Ms Beer, who is working for families caught up in HS2 drama, said: ‘ HS2 are saying £10,000 per acre, Bernard knows it should be more in the realms of £20,000 to £25,000.’ She added: ‘When you have had land acquired, subject to certain exceptions – one of them being there hasn’t been a material change to the land – the land should be being offered to the former land owner. So Bernard should be having his land offered back to him. ‘The crux of it is that you have to buy that land back at open market value at the date you buy back not the value at the date it was acquired from you.’ But when Mr Kettle was asked if he even wanted the land back now, he said: ‘I am 82 years of age and I don’t want to carry on farming until I reach a century. So it’s of no use to me. ‘I would rather have the money in my pocket. But it’s been going on now since they took the advance payment was applied for in February this year. 

‘We should have been paid by April but we still haven’t because they are finding every excuse under the sun not to pay. ‘If I wait long enough I shall end up with a wooden overcoat [a coffin].’ Earlier, Transport Secretary Mark Harper had been speaking on the show, where he said: ‘There will be people impacted by this who are not happy about this and I accept that.’ When asked whether they will be compensated, Mr Harper said: ‘Well no. The people impacted whose properties were purchased, those properties were purchased at market value.’ When Mr Sunak announced that HS2 would be scrapped between Birmingham and Manchester, he pledged to instead invest £36billion into the North’s existing rail network.

The cancellation follows the decision in November 2021 to cancel HS2’s eastern leg from Birmingham to Leeds to save between £30 billion to £40 billion amid fears the cost of the project would exceed £100 billion. Under current plans, Phase One of HS2 involves the railway being built between London and Birmingham, with the line being extended from the West Midlands to Crewe under the now cancelled Phase 2a. Phase 2b would then have connected Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to the East Midlands and a further eastern leg which would have ran from Birmingham to Leeds.

In order to get their route plans off the ground, successive governments bought up land across the country decimating communities who saw their neighbourhoods shuttered and cutting up thousands of acres of farmland – like Mr Kettle’s. The Department for Transport has now confirmed that land earmarked for the HS2 routes now scrapped will not be protected for potential future expansion of the high-speed railway – meaning anything can now be built on them. Overall spending on HS2 to date, including land and property, stands at £24.7 billion – but the line is not set to be fully operational until 2033. Read the full story:

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