Version 3 – April 2023
CEF & BLEF Priorities for 2023/24
This guidance for the Community & Environment Fund (CEF) and Business & Local Economy Fund (BLEF) covers priority geographical areas and priority project themes for funding in the 2023/24 financial year. This guidance is a continuation of the Funds’ prioritisation approach since April 2021 to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of funding for line of route communities.
Since the launch of the Funds in March 2017 there has been an overwhelmingly positive uptake of funding from line of route communities. As of the end of March 2023, we have funded 230 projects totalling £13.28m now published on the interactive online Project Map.
Via this open funding programme, we have already invested in a wide variety of projects benefitting disrupted communities and places in urban and rural areas to encourage better health and wellbeing, enhance employment and skills, support local families, children and young people, improve the local environment, upgrade public buildings and community facilities and supporting partnerships of businesses. The Funds are meeting their aspiration to realise tangible benefits in communities disrupted by the construction of HS2.
However, it is important to HS2 Ltd that all communities along the line of route receive a fair and equitable share of funding. Regular analysis of programme information and reporting both internally and in the public domain since 2017 have been undertaken to help achieve this aim during the construction and first year of operation of HS2. To support this further, in April 2021 we publicly introduced priority local authority areas. The priority areas identified had received lower than average levels of funding from CEF and BLEF to date. We also introduced priority project themes, as the first step towards addressing the disparities in funding levels between areas and types of projects. To note, projects fully meeting the Funds’ criteria that were based within 1km of the line of route did receive funding in the 2022/23 financial year, recognising their proximity to the line of route as a priority.
We have undertaken further promotion, media activity and engagement work in the last 12 months in those identified areas, and this work has resulted in an increased number of awards in priority areas during the 2022/23 financial year. This increase in award activity supports our decision and approach taken. However, there remains a need to maintain priority areas of focus and project types going into the 2023/24 financial year. This decision will ensure the continued upward trajectory of funding for those priority areas, leading to a fairer and more equitable distribution in future.
Standard Priority Criteria
Funding projects within 1km of the line of route, in line with where the greatest levels of disruption from the construction of HS2 exists (or will exist) has been a consistent priority for CEF and BLEF since the launch of the Funds. This priority will remain in place until the end of the construction programme for all areas along the line of route.
Linked to the levels of funding already distributed as described above, as well as levels of disruption from the construction of HS2, the priority geographical areas (in alphabetical order) for the 2023/2024 financial year are as follows;
- Hertfordshire County Council
- London Borough of Ealing
- London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
- London Borough of Hillingdon
- Oxfordshire County Council
- Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
- Staffordshire County Council
The intention has and will always be to seek to support a wider variety of lower value awards (up to £75,000) for greater environmental, social and economic impact from the budget available, rather than focussing on a high number of large awards (£75,001 – £250,000). Our average award size has remained within the range of £50,000 – £60,000 since launching in 2017.
If your organisation is based in a priority area and you have already received an award, we may also consider providing further funding for a new/different project (with additional outputs/outcomes than the first award) subject to an application being submitted which meets the programme’s criteria. If you have already received funding but also have another potential project that you require funding for, please contact Groundwork UK to discuss in further detail.
If your local authority area is not listed above, it has either already received a proportionally higher than average level of funding or it will not experience high levels of disruption from the construction of HS2. You should therefore consider whether it would be more beneficial to wait and apply when your area is a priority, potentially in future financial years, consider another funding route, or apply with the knowledge of the current geographical and project theme priorities. If you are based in a non-priority area, please note that the stringent application of the prioritisation criteria may mean that an application for funding may be unsuccessful, or a reduced level of funding may be offered. As in 2022/23, we will recognise within 1km proximity to the line of route as a priority.
Applications for funding of over £75,000 will not be considered from non-priority areas.
Priority Themes for 2023/24
With regards to priorities by project theme, BLEF projects and projects under CEF with the key objective of providing environmental benefits will remain a priority due to the lower-than-average proportion of funding already allocated to these project types and themes to date. These thematic project priorities will be cross-referenced with the local authority area priorities when the assessors review applications.
The prioritisation of local authority areas and themes for the Funds will continue to be reviewed on an annual basis (or more frequently if there is a significant change in the level of funding that has been awarded) with updates being shared in the public domain via the Funds’ website, working with the Funds’ independent administrators, Groundwork UK and the Funds’ independent Chair.
If you have any queries, please contact Groundwork UK about your project application.