A £30m fund for community projects along the HS2 line has been announced by the government – but critics say it is a drop in the ocean compared to the misery the scheme will cause.
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill announced the Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF) day, which he said will make up to £30 million available for 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.
It will be rolled out when construction starts in 2017 and grants will be awarded until the end of HS2’s first year of operation in 2026.
But Martin Tett, chairman of the 51m alliance against the plans and leader of Bucks County Council, said he was hoping for a figure closer to £230m.
“To say that this is disappointing would be the understatement of the century,” he said.
“We wrote to the Prime Minister in August asking to work with the Government to pull together a locally administered Community and Benefit Fund which would make a real difference to the lives of those affected. HS2 ltd have been very slow to respond and this fund certainly wasn’t worth holding ones breath for!”
“The 51m alliance has been working on a figure for a proposed fund based on just £1m per km for the Phase 1 route, that would be £230m.
“This may sound like a lot but compared to the project cost of £50 billion it is little more than a ‘rounding error’. According to the HS2 Cost and Risk Model Report, the Phase 1 cost estimate included ‘£775m for ‘contractor admin costs’ alone and there are around £5.7bn of contingency funds for phase 1. Surely mitigating the impact of this massive project on the towns, villages and communities affected is worth more than the costs of consultants’ admin?”
Mr 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 announced and will further help communities and businesses make the most of this once in a generation scheme and crucial part of the government’s long-term economic plan.”