HS2 The Community and Environment Fund

HS2 The Community and Environment Fund and Business and Local Economy Fund- HS2 has been a hot topic of conversation for several years now and discussions over value for money and environmental impacts have been high on the agenda.

In February the first phase of the scheme from London to the West Midlands was granted Royal Assent with works due to commence in the coming year. Whilst there is still fierce opposition to the project, there are opportunities for local communities to make a positive difference as a result of the development. As the announcement was made, two new funds totalling £40m were officially launched and applications are being taken now.

Administrated by the charity Groundwork, the new funds are to be allocated throughout phase one and the first year of HS2 operation.

The Community & Environment Fund (CEF) is split into two types of funding with ‘local’ grants of up to £75k and ‘strategic’ grants of £75k – £1m.

Local grants are available to community based voluntary organisations, charitable and not-for-profit bodies, social enterprises, schools and local authorities. Successful applications will focus on quality of life and environment in individual communities.

Strategic grants will focus on large projects across several communities and address strategic rather than purely local concerns. Wherever possible, the CEF fund aims to leave a sustainable legacy.

Examples of CEF initiatives are provided:

  • Improved pedestrian, equestrian, or cycle access not provided under statutory services;
  • Landscape and nature conservation enhancement projects which increase biodiversity (including pop up interventions such as skip gardens);
  • Enhancement or replacement of sports and recreational facilities;
  • Improved access and enhancements to public open space;
  • Provision of enhanced or new community facilities; and
  • Refurbishment/re-use of historic buildings and monuments.

The Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF) aims to support local economies that are demonstrably disrupted by the construction of HS2. The purpose of these grants, which may be capital or revenue funding of £10k to £1m, is to help maintain business activity in local communities through local business support organisations, including local authorities.

Examples of BLEF initiatives include:

  • Schemes to improve the local public realm, especially in retail and tourist areas;
  • Improved local cycling and pedestrian access to local economic centres;
  • General promotional activity for local economic benefit;
  • Creating and running events that increase footfall or promote business activity during seasonal periods (for example, farmers markets);
  • Employment and job creation schemes;
  • Town/village discount cards to retain spend in local areas and;
  • Projects that aim to increase tourist visits to an area.

Three broad regions have been created across Central, London and West Midland areas. Around 25% of funds are unallocated to allow greater flexibility for funding cross border and geographically separated projects.

The Groundwork website features advice on applying, with an eligibility calculator and FAQs.

Successful applications will demonstrate value for money, feature evidence that outcomes will be achieved and have a plan for monitoring. PSC can assist with building a strong application based on robust research and realistic financial analysis.

Alongside the community and business funds, £30m has also been allocated for road safety projects and a Community Investment Plan similar to that of Crossrail should be launched soon creating further benefits.