Monday 13 October 2014
Communities forced to bear the burden of the HS2 rail line will have no control over a fund set up to support public projects along the route.
A £30m fund for communities and businesses 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 has announced the Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF), 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 one's 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 consultants 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?”
A fund of several hundred million pounds is entirely appropriate and realistic compared with similar schemes for other national infrastructure projects. For example, the Government has agreed a community benefits package worth £128m for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley C in Somerset.
Ian Reay, Chairman of the Chilterns Conservation Board, said: "This scheme utterly fails to recognise the level of anger and distress felt in local communities at the devastation they face from HS2. These communities are being forced to host national infrastructure but will see none of the benefits. Any fund must be locally-controlled, transparent and of a sufficient size to reflect the harm that will be caused. The fund announced last week appears to fail on all three counts."
The Conservation Board calls on the Department for Transport to hold proper discussions with stakeholders including 51m and affected communities to agree what is required.
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