New HS2 fund for communities

HS2New HS2 funding is being made available to Warwickshire communities to coincide with the start of construction of the railway.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced the funding package worth £70 million to provide benefits for those communities affected by the construction and operation of HS2. The Government is establishing the Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and Business and Local Economy (BLEF) Fund worth a total of £40 million, in addition to £30 million for route-wide road safety projects.

The Department for Transport is making £15 million available to the central area – which includes Warwickshire – across both funding pots.

Cllr Peter Butlin, Warwickshire County Council’s Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Transport and Highways, said: “We welcome the confirmation of funding which will help our communities – who are among the hardest hit by HS2 – to be able to receive some benefit from the railway. As it stands, we are set to receive a lot of the pain without much of the gain.

“A quarter of the Phase One route will be built in Warwickshire and we expect that a fair allocation of money should be provided to organisations and groups in the county once the funds become available.

“The county council is keen to ensure that our communities are in a strong position to benefit when the bidding process opens.”

In Warwickshire a total of 54 kilometres – a total of 24 per cent – of Phase One HS2 route will travel through Warwickshire. Construction work is scheduled to start on the line in 2017 and the first trains from London to Birmingham will run in 2026.

The objective of the community fund is to add benefit over and above committed mitigation and statutory compensation to communities and local economies along the route that are demonstrably disrupted by the construction of HS2.

Cllr John Whitehouse, Liberal Democrat lead member on HS2, said: “We will be looking at ways in which we can maximise the potential for this fund for the many residents and businesses affected by HS2. This is an opportunity for us to try to get something back from the scheme which has a long-lasting and positive legacy.”

Cllr Brian Moss, Labour Group HS2 spokesman, added: “We broadly welcome this announcement. A substantial amount of funding for Warwickshire will go some way to helping to soften the blow of the significant impact of HS2 on us.”

Links to the county council’s website at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/