Last month, 51m, the group of councils challenging HS2, received a disappointing response to their call for an increase to the community and business funds.
Funds like these had been requested by council and communities along the route, following the example of the Countryside Initiative which had been in place during the building of HS1. Unlike the HS1 funds – which was set up for ‘enhancement of landscape, biodiversity and heritage’ in areas affected by the Channel Tunnel Rail link (now known as HS1) – HS2 describe the funds as being merely to ‘maintain local quality of life’ and ‘to help offset the impacts on communities’. It should be noted that over a quarter of the HS1 Countryside Initative funding went to a single location on the 67 mile project.
51M had asked for funding based on £1m per km, which equates to about £230 million. Speaking in October, Martin Tett said “This may sound like a lot but compared to the project cost of £50 billion it is little more than a ‘rounding error’
In the letter received last month, Robert Goodwill refused to increase the funding from £30 million.
Camden Council also wrote to the New Philanthropy Capital, who will be administering the funds, with some major concerns. Their letter, which can be downloaded from their website lists a number of concerns, including:
“The Council’s position remains that essential mitigation, including measures that go beyond those outlined in the Environmental Statement, must be funded directly by HS2 and in addition to the CEF and the BLEF… we therefore stress the importance of this fund being in addition to, and in no way instead of, mitigation….
“We estimate that approximately 3,800 people will be living in close proximity to construction sites (within 20m of the surface safeguarding) in Camden alone. It is therefore clear that £30 million for the whole construction period of phase 1 is not going to be in any way sufficient to support all the communities and businesses impacted by the scheme. The 51m group have suggested that £230m is made available for the fund, which is broadly equivalent to £1m per km of Phase 1 of HS2, representing around 1% of the scheme’s construction costs. …
“There should be no requirement for match funding. Grants for up to 100% should be offered and community groups and business should not be penalised for not having match funding in place (as suggested by your scoring system). The bidding process should be proportionate in its requirements to the amount sought, should be as accessible as possible and aligned to compliment other funding channels where appropriate. Grants should be made available as soon as possible in order to address the impacts of the scheme which are being felt now and should continue to be made available in the longer term….
“While we appreciate the invitation to comment on your proposals so far, we are deeply concerned that the process you have outlined includes no opportunity for engagement with local communities and businesses or further engagement with local authorities and LEP’s…”