£30m grant scheme hailed ‘a joke’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - HS2 NEWS -

FUNDS which are to be made avail­able to com­mu­ni­ties along the HS2 route be­tween London and Birm­ing­ham have been dis­missed as ‘a joke’ by op­po­nents of the project.

Trans­port min­is­ter Robert Good­will an­nounced last week that com­mu­ni­ties and busi­nesses close to the high-speed line will ben­e­fit from up to £30mil­lion in grants, which are de­signed to be in­vested in pub­lic projects such as na­ture con­ser­va­tion, re­fur­bish­ment of com­mu­nity cen­tres, and mea­sures to support lo­cal economies and em­ploy­ment.

Dif­fer­ent groups will be able to bid for grants which are set to be rolled out when con­struc­tion of the first phase of the line be­gins.

Mr Good­will said: “It’s only right we do all we can to help those liv­ing and work­ing close to this vi­tal rail­way. Th­ese new funds, to­talling £30m, 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.”

How­ever, cam­paign­ers against the project have scoffed at the plans.

Joe Rukin, cam­paign man­ager of Stop HS2, said: “I would say that the funds an­nounced were a com­plete joke if it weren’t for the fact they are a bad joke.

“Of­fer­ing £30m to help busi­nesses and the en­vi­ron­ment equates to about £200,000 per mile, which is mi­nus­cule com­pared with the dam­age from HS2.”

Martin Tett, Bucks County Coun­cil leader and chair­man of 51m, the al­liance of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties against HS2, also crit­i­cised the funds: “To say that this is dis­ap­point­ing would be the un­der­state­ment of the cen­tury. We wrote to the Prime Min­is­ter in Au­gust ask­ing to work with the gov­ern­ment to pull to­gether a lo­cally ad­min­is­tered com­mu­nity and ben­e­fit scheme which would make a real dif­fer­ent 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.”

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