MP welcomes HS2 community funds which recognise the needs of rural communities.

The Transport Secretary has confirmed plans to make £70 million of Government funds available to support local communities and improve road safety along the route between London and the West Midlands following the news that construction is to start in the first half of 2017.

Under these plans, a total £70 million of government funds will be divided between two funds; the Community and Environment Fund (CEF), the Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF). In addition to these two funds, a new £30 million national Road Safety Fund has also been established.

Here in the West Midlands, a total of £7.5 million will be allocated to assist those affect by the construction of HS2 through the Community and Environment Fund and the Business and Local Economy Fund. By comparison, the Greater London area will also receive £7.5 million whilst the counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire will share a total £15 million of financial support.

A further £10 million has been allocated from both the CEF and BLEF to fund cross-border or route wide projects across the HS2 route.

Local MP Dame Caroline Spelman welcomed the announcement, saying: ‘ I am pleased that the Government has recognised the potential burden that the construction of HS2 could place on many local communities and has acted to provide those living and working along the line of route with the opportunity to secure financial support during the construction phase'.

'In particular, I welcome the news that the West Midlands region will receive the same amount of financial support as Greater London. It is clear from this announcement that the Government has rightly identified and acknowledged how the impact of this project will be no less great in rural communities like Balsall Common as it will be for residents and businesses in the city of London’.

Community groups, charities, non-governmental organisations and business support specialists will be able to bid for grants from the CEF and BLEF funds, which are expected to be rolled out when construction starts in 2017 and will be awarded until the end of HS2’s first year of operation in 2026.

The detailed application guidance for the 2 funds will be published in due course. Following the launch of the funds grant-making rounds are expected to take place every 3 to 6 months.

A separate £30 million road safety fund will be used to make improvements in places along the line of route – for instance to support traffic calming, safer junctions or better pedestrian crossings. Further details on this fund will be announced in the coming months.