Groundwork UK, independent administrators of the HS2 Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF) have released the HS2 Funds Annual Review for 2021/2022.
In the last year, over £2.4m has been awarded to 51 Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF) projects that support communities and businesses along Phase One and Phase 2a of the route. To date, the programme has funded 197 projects to the tune of over £11.3m.
Projects highlighted in the report include the Community Environmental Trust, based in the West Midlands, that received just under £75,000 to fund a community outreach programme that included a range of activities and events to engage local people with the conservation of Castle Vale Conservation Area.
Alicia Grande Cristóbal, Project Manager & Forest School Practitioner, said: “Applying for HS2 funds was a great opportunity to help us enhance and protect our local, multi-functional conservation area, whilst delivering a wide range of environmental activities and projects that could, additionally, improve the quality of life for our local community. The social interactions have been vital during and in the aftermath of the pandemic and have promoted the development of friendships and reduction of social isolation, increasing health and wellbeing.”
Friends of Shenstone Tower received over £70,000 to fund improvements to the 13th century tower including the installation of a visitors centre, as well as a rooftop viewing platform and an accessible viewing system to ensure the whole community could benefit.
Jeremy Cotton, Chairman of the Friends and Shenstone Tower Trustees, said: “This is a large and prestigious project protecting a 900-year-old building for future generations. We have already seen the community come together around this project in a number of ways. Now I cannot walk down the street without people stopping me and asking about the tower. It has already become a focus of interest for the community.”
The report also marks the first year of CEF and BLEF Phase 2a activity, with Manor Park Sailing Club being the first project to receive Phase 2a funding for their club house refurbishment.
Peter Pallett, Manor Park Sailing Club Committee Member and Co-Fundraiser, said: “The effect has been astonishing, we were able to open the clubhouse and changing rooms in September and October last year to our members and affiliates in the knowledge that it was weathertight. What impressed us most was the enthusiasm that HS2 funding showed in allowing this urgent project to proceed, culminating with the replacement roof being completed just ten days before the torrential rains of September!”
With Groundwork set to mark 40 years since its establishment as an experiment in community empowerment to address local environmental, social and economic issues, the report notes the partnership with HS2 as supporting the charity’s mission to create a future where every neighbourhood is vibrant and green, every community is strong and able to shape its own destiny, and no-one is held back by their background or circumstances.
Graham Duxbury, Groundwork’s UK Chief Executive, said: “Now more than ever it’s vital that we invest in building stronger communities, improving local facilities and supporting projects that help people thrive. It’s great to see the difference that the HS2 Community and Business Funds are having and we look forward to seeing what other innovative and exciting projects will receive funding in the next 12 months.”
Cathy Elliott, Independent Chair of the HS2 Funds, said: “The last 12 months has seen HS2’s funding programme continue to develop and grow. We celebrated reaching CEF & BLEF’s £10m milestone of funding distributed for Phase One by September 2021 which is a fantastic achievement since launching in 2017.
“Through local and regional awarded projects, we have enabled new facilities to be built and used by residents, contributed to vital services being offered and taken up in communities, supported more environmental projects led by local people, helped to improve health & wellbeing, especially adapting to the pandemic, and developed local employment and skills.”