Support for local business

Part of High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 8 March 2016.

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Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 3:00, 8 March 2016

The Government are committed to ensuring that we minimise the impact on local businesses as we construct HS2, but the new clause will not help to further that commitment. The environmental statement that accompanied the Bill already commits to mitigating the construction impacts of the scheme on businesses. Through the Select Committee process that we have just completed, we have provided a great number of businesses with specific binding assurances to address the impacts that they may experience. I have visited some of the businesses myself to see first hand the problems they face. We have committed to engaging with local communities during the construction phase and managing any concerns they have. We fully expect that that may include the provision of good-quality public realm amenities during construction, such as temporary planting, colourful hoardings—which may, for example, give information about the operation of nearby businesses—and so on. We are considering what we can do in terms of signposting and information on businesses that are operating within the area to minimise impacts in terms of isolation and amenity.

As the hon. Gentleman said, I visited a Drummond Street restaurant with Mr Frank Dobson, a former Member of Parliament, and can very much understand some of the problems the businesses anticipate when construction has severed the area and made it difficult for customers to get through. It is important that we do whatever we can to ensure that they continue to thrive. I hope construction workers themselves bring patronage to those types of businesses.

We have also launched a business and local economy fund to add benefit over and above committed mitigation and statutory compensation to support local economies that are demonstrably disrupted by the construction of HS2. The fund may well support measures such as improvements to the local public realm, especially in retail and tourist areas, events that increase footfall or promote business activity during seasonal periods and general promotional activity.

The hon. Gentleman raised the £34,000 business rate cap for “need to sell” business applications. Members of the Select Committee raised that with me, and the Government are looking at it. Business rates in London are far greater than those in other parts of the country, and if we can, we will certainly do something to try to address that problem for the small number of businesses that fall outside that particular net.

Applications will be invited for capital or revenue grants from £10,000 up to a maximum of £1 million. It will be for local businesses and support organisations, including local authorities, to identify appropriate projects that will help to maintain business activity in local communities.

I believe, therefore, that all the points made by the hon. Gentleman have been addressed and that the new clause can be withdrawn.