Groups are urged to apply for minibus grants from Norfolk County Council

Philip Atherton, a volunteer driver for Norwich Door-to-Door, with its minibus. Picture: Keith Whitm

Philip Atherton, a volunteer driver for Norwich Door-to-Door, with its minibus. Picture: Keith Whitmore - Credit: Archant

A £250,000 grant to encourage the replacement of ageing minibuses is set to give community transport across Norfolk a boost.

Norfolk County Council has set up a small vehicles fund to give grants of up to £15,000 towards the cost of replacing vehicles which provide community transport lifelines to thousands of people across rural Norfolk.

The money comes from Norfolk's community transport funding from the Department for Transport.

David Harrison, cabinet member for environment, transport, development and waste, said: 'Community transport has an increasingly vital role to play in rural Norfolk.

'In villages and hamlets that are not reached by traditional bus services, community transport – often run by volunteers – provides a lifeline for people who have no other way of reaching essential services, such as doctors' surgeries, chemists, post offices, or shops.

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'A survey of Norfolk's community transport fleet showed that around 30pc of vehicles are more than ten years old, so many of these will soon need replacement.

'The £250,000 fund will allow us to provide 50pc grants for newer vehicles costing up to £30,000, and we hope that we will be able to support the purchase of around 20 vehicles.

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'This is a one-off opportunity for voluntary groups and community transport operators, so we are expecting a lot of interest.'

The council said it recognised that some groups may not have enough money in the bank to cover their own half of the cost, but it encouraged them to apply anyway because the council could hold the grant for them until they have raised the necessary funds.

Mr Harrison added: 'These grants are a way in which the county council can provide further support for a shift away from traditional bus services to demand-responsive and community and voluntary transport, which is often much better at meeting local needs.

'We support public transport so that communities have access to essential services, but we also believe that social journeys are important for the health and wellbeing of people who might otherwise become very isolated. With the council facing even tougher times financially, the role of community and voluntary transport is assuming even greater importance for our residents.'

Applications for small vehicles fund grants have to be in by September 20. For further information email, or write to SVF Grant Co-ordinator, Norfolk County Council, Travel and Transport Services, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2SG.

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