A rural watchdog has called on the Government to review compulsory purchase laws before it goes ahead with plans to send 250mph trains thundering through the West Midlands countryside.
The Countryside Land Association (CLA) said it feared landowners and farmers could be left out of pocket by current legislation.
The Government is offering cash to home and landowners on the proposed £30 billion high speed rail route under its Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS).
But the CLA said it feared that, unless the laws surrounding compulsory purchase were reviewed, farmers could find that engineers would be allowed to dig tunnels and build roads on land without paying compensation.
Caroline Bedell, the CLA’s director for the West Midlands, urged landowners to apply now for the EHS, which could see the Government buy land at market value.
“The CLA has lobbied for years to change the blight and compulsory purchase laws,” said Mrs Beddell.
“Ten years ago, the Government recognised there was a problem and recommended a range of reforms to make the system fairer – but they have never been put into action.”
“The onset of high speed rail now makes a fundamental review of compulsory purchase laws imperative.
“We believe the Government should include a duty of care to people whose land is acquired in the national interest.”
The Government has delayed a consultation on the route of the line until next spring but said work could begin on the first phase of the line, between London and Birmingham, by 2017.
From Birmingham, the route will split to create a Y-shaped network, with one branch heading towards Sheffield and another towards Liverpool.
The proposals show the line would split the 265-acre Middleton House Farm, close to the Belfry Golf Club, between Birmingham and Tamworth, in two.
But the farm’s owners, Gordon and Robert Davies, said no amount of government money could ever compensate for the work that they and their family had invested in the land since they bought it in 1914.
Most recently they have ploughed thousands of pounds into creating a bed and breakfast guest house and office complex at the site.
Gordon, aged 55, said: “They talk about compensation but no amount can ever reflect what my family has put into this farm over four generations.
“We won’t have homes and we won’t have a livelihood. How can you compensate anybody for that?
“We are still hoping we can persuade the Government to move the route slightly so it doesn’t come directly through the farm.
“If we don’t then the EHS is our only option but we will wait until we know more around the time of the consultation.”
And villagers in nearby Middleton said they had been left stunned by the scale of a proposed viaduct needed to carry the A4091 road over the proposed line.
Middleton is also among three alternative sites for a mile-long marshalling depot which would be used for the maintenance and storage of rolling stock.
Ian Waddell, chairman of the Middleton Against HS2 Action Group, said: “If a private developer had applied to build an industrial estate of this size, our councils would be up in arms.
“But, because it is a government body and it will by-pass democratic planning procedures, local officials seem to be doing very little and are leaving it up to residents to fight.”
Engineering firm Mott MacDonald was this week appointed engineers to help develop the route between Birmingham and the North-west.