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New coronavirus fund to benefit hard hit groups along Heart of Wales railway line

By Lisa O'Brien | Mid Wales | Coronavirus | Published:

A new fund worth £10,000 is being launched to help communities along the Heart of Wales line recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding will allow groups within 10km of a train station on the line to bid for up to £500 each, with applications open until the end of August.

Transport for Wales has provided 50 per cent of the money as part of its commitment to community rail.

The Heart of Wales Development Company, the ‘community rail partnership’ for the line, came up with the idea of a resilience fund after its board realised that due to the pandemic, they wouldn’t be able to deliver their usual programme of marketing and community projects.

Instead, they have decided to use their funding to help community groups along the line to remain active and “keep doing what they do best".

Lisa Denison, the development manager for the partnership, got in touch with local voluntary sector bodies in the four counties that the line passes through – Shropshire, Powys, Carmarthenshire and Swansea, to ask them what was needed to support towns and villages close to the railway.

She said: “It became clear quite quickly that there was enough money for responding to the pandemic, but groups were getting worried about how to fund ‘non-coronavirus’ things such as paying rent or utility bills.

"The voluntary sector is responding incredibly well but groups need ongoing, long-term support in this fast changing world. We wanted to fill the gaps that other funding did not reach.”

The fund has broad criteria and a decision-making panel, who will meet in early September, will be looking for evidence that the funding can help sustain groups into the future.

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Powys Association for Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) is helping to administer the fund, with similar bodies from Carmarthenshire, Shropshire and Swansea also involved.

They will be promoting the fund and helping to assess the applications.

Julia Baron, from Shropshire Rural Community Charities, said: “We are really happy to help deliver this innovative grant fund along The Heart of Wales line.

"The railway is an important connector in so many communities and it is fantastic that they have chosen to be flexible in order to help groups with funding where it’s needed, rather than being too prescriptive.

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"This will definitely fill some gaps and help the community and voluntary sector remain resilient.”

Hugh Evans, head of community rail for Transport for Wales, added: “Communities may be easing out of lockdown but it will take years for them to recover, and the community and voluntary sector needs to be there supporting and enabling that recovery, right at the heart of it.

"Supporting this grant programme along The Heart of Wales line is one way that we can play our part, especially when train services are so restricted.”

For more information about the fund, including application forms, go to www.heart-of-wales.co.uk/news or www.pavo.org.uk/help-for-organisations/funding.html

Lisa O'Brien

By Lisa O'Brien
Senior Reporter - @lisaobrien_Star

Senior reporter based at Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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