28/04/2014 07:16 BST | Updated 28/06/2014 06:59 BST

HS2 Must Treat Farming Fairly

For a significant number of farmers this week marks a crucial stage in the process towards the HS2 'phase one' rail link.

But for many there are still grey areas.

HS2 raises the prospect of an unacceptable treble hit. Firstly, essential farmland is being lost to the line; secondly, larger areas which have been highlighted for habitat creation and tree planting will take valuable food-producing land out of production. And thirdly, far more new habitat is being imposed than is being lost on a questionable 'bigger is better' principle.

We know from the environmental statement published last autumn that there are 213 agricultural holdings directly affected by the proposed route from London to the West Midlands. They vary hugely in size and type but are united by the uncertainty HS2 has created.

As the second reading of the bill to approve the project gets underway, families like the Woods, whose story you can watch in the video below, need the government to ensure the project has a minimum disruption.

They need HS2 Ltd to do more to make sure all farmers have been contacted and properly informed so they fully appreciate the impact on their businesses. And they need ministers to ensure the business case and compensation arrangements are clarified.

We recognise the importance of investing in the nation's transport infrastructure.

However, it is vital that farm businesses are treated fairly, with enhanced compensation paid promptly to redress the damage done to those along the line. And alongside that, we need far greater information from HS2 Ltd about the economic gains of the promised enhanced connectivity, particularly for rural communities.

It is also essential that, once construction has been completed, farms are left in a strong, viable condition, where land can still be farmed productively.

Land severance must be kept to an absolute minimum and where it is unavoidable HS2 Ltd must ensure farmers have access to drainage systems, water supplies, bridges and underpasses to enable their businesses to function.

In all of this, it is essential that government strikes a balance between what is best for our infrastructure needs, what is best for nature and, crucially, what is best for British farming families and the food they produce.

You can find out more about just how we think some of the issues might be addressed on our website, here.