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HS2 landowners urged to get help in recovering land

Landowners who had their land compulsorily purchased by the government for HS2 are being urged to seek expert advice if they plan on buying their land back.

Phase 2 of the planned high-speed rail line, which would have connected Birmingham to Manchester through Staffordshire and Cheshire, was officially cancelled by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party Conference.

Hugh Maxfield, partner at Fisher German’s Knutsford office, worked with several clients whose land was needed for Phase 2 to go ahead, is advising landowners to get on the front foot.

He said: “Landowners who were forced to sell up along the planned Phase 2 route due to compulsory purchase orders may now be wondering if they have any recourse to reacquire their land and property.

“While detailed guidance has not yet been published by the government, HS2 has confirmed that ‘any property that is no longer required for HS2 will be sold and a programme is being developed to do this’.

“In practice, we expect this will mean that Crichel Down Rules will apply. This means the original landowners should have first refusal to buy back their land from the government so long as it hasn’t materially changed.

“However, the legal small print is complex, and we would urge any landowner wishing to buy their land back to seek advice.”

Safeguarding protections restricting development along Phase 2a – between Birmingham and Crewe – are expected to be lifted within weeks, while restrictions on land along Phase 2b between Crewe and Manchester is likely to expire next summer.

James Boddington, associate partner at Fisher German, said: “There are many different factors to consider, such as individual lease-holding arrangements, whether all of the land can be purchased if certain parts have had material changes, and whether the current value of the land has increased or decreased.

“We would encourage former landowners to have assessed their situation as thoroughly as possible before committing to a decision.”

HS2 was originally planned to connect London to Manchester and Leeds via Birmingham. The Leeds connection was scrapped in 2021, meaning the original London to Birmingham plan is the only section of the line going ahead after the government’s announcement.

The disruption has caused upheaval for not only landowners but contractors too.

Boddington added: “We understand that the compulsory purchase process and the Government’s subsequent cancellation of Phase 2 has caused significant distress to some of our clients.

“We would encourage anyone struggling from this point of view to contact the Farming Community Network, a charity which supports farmers and associated contractors with their mental health.”