On 10th October, the Department for Transport announced the launch of the HS2 community and business support fund. Communities and businesses near the new HS2 high speed railway will benefit from grants worth millions, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill announced.
Local MP, Caroline Spelman said: “This is a victory for Solihull Council, who have been calling for such a support fund with me. I hope there is a good take-up of the funds available, and that we see the introduction of projects and measures that both enhance our community and protect our environment.”
The Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and the Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF) will make up to £30 million available for residents and local communities between London and Birmingham to invest in public projects such as the refurbishment of local community centres, nature conservation and measures to support local economies and employment. Community groups, charities, non-governmental organisations and business support organisations will be able to bid for grants from the new funds, which are expected to be rolled out when construction starts in 2017, following Royal Assent of the High Speed Rail (London to West Midlands) Bill. Grants will be awarded until the end of HS2’s first year of operation in 2026.
Robert Goodwill said: “HS2 is crucial to the long-term prosperity of this country. It will free up space on our railways, cut journey times between our biggest cities and drive forward our economy for years to come. However, it’s only right we do all we can to help those living and working close to this vital railway. These new funds, totalling £30 million, are in addition to the comprehensive package of support we have already.”
Local authorities and environmental groups have spoken in favour of the establishment of a Community Fund, similar to the Countryside Initiative which was set up as part of constructing HS1. The CEF will support local projects that bring community and environmental benefits to areas affected by HS2. Part of the pot will fund small scale community projects, the remainder will fund larger schemes that have third party or match funding.
Local authorities and business groups have also spoken in favour of the need for measures to support local economies that may be impacted by HS2 construction works. The BLEF will do just that by inviting business groups to bring forward projects that will maintain business activity and employment in their local communities.