The government has opened the third round of its £150m Community Ownership Fund, designed to help communities rescue and take control of local assets, such as sports clubs, music venues and historic buildings.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities says the fund has been changed to give more help to community groups. The amount of funding all projects can bid for will be increasing from £250,000 to £1m, meaning that groups can bid for more funding to help save bigger projects.
The requirement for match-funding is also being reduced to as low as 10%, making it easier for communities to acquire assets without raising additional private funding. For the first time, parish councils can also apply to the fund, which has previously only been available to charities and community groups.
The Fund is already supporting almost 100 projects across the UK.
Levelling Up minister Dehenna Davison said: “From far-flung pubs to prized community centres, the Community Ownership Fund is putting vital assets back into the hands of communities, to be enjoyed for generations to come.
“We want even more communities to benefit from the fund and that’s why we are making these changes so community groups can apply for even more money to save much loved local assets.
“We will continue to grow this fund to empower local people, restoring their pride in the places where they live and levelling up communities across the United Kingdom.”
Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker said: “The Community Ownership Fund is already supporting seven great projects across Northern Ireland with £1.5m in funding, making a real difference to local communities.
It’s wonderful to see the launch of round three, which will save more local community assets by supporting proposals that enable communities here to thrive, boosting levelling up across Northern Ireland.”
The fund is already helping communities across the country seize ownership of prized local assets that are at risk, including:
- Britain’s most remote pub, the Old Forge Pub, on the Knoydart Peninsula in Scotland. £200,000 investment from the Community Ownership Fund has helped the people of Inverie take full ownership
- In Gateshead, a local community group, Fighting All Cancers Together, will renovate their local community centre with a £300,000 investment, creating a sustainable space to continue their invaluable work of supporting people diagnosed with cancer
- Leigh Spinners Mill, the largest building in Leigh, in Greater Manchester, which has been vacant for many years. £250,000 of funding is transforming the space into a hot spot that offers support to community groups and creating more employment opportunities
- Ballymacash Sports Academy in Northern Ireland which has received £300,000 for creating state-of-the-art sports facilities and improving the club with a brand new 3G sports pitch – a specialised pitch for football comprised of three different turfs
- The Queen’s Ballroom in Tredegar, Wales, has been saved thanks to £90,000 in funding, The historic building was originally one of Wales’s first purpose built electric cinemas. Today it houses a fully funded programme which provides young people, aged 7-18, with the opportunity to learn fundamental skills for working in film
- A community in rural Suffolk successfully bought their local pub, The Racehorse Inn, through a £96,000 grant from the Community Ownership Fund in March 2022. The pub will hopefully be transformed into a local hub with a post office and shop to serve the residents of Westhall and the surrounding area.
The Old Forge Community Benefit Society said: “We are grateful to the Community Ownership Fund whose support helped The Old Forge Community Benefit Society to achieve its goal of a community-owned pub on the Knoydart Peninsula.”
Tony Armstrong, CEO of Locality, who leads the development support programme for the fund, said: “We are delighted by the changes announced in the round 3 prospectus of the Community Ownership Fund meaning that more local people will have control over the buildings and spaces that have significance to them and ensure that these spaces are used in ways that meet the priorities and needs of the local community.
“As the lead for the development support programme, we are pleased to be bringing together the knowledge and skills of 10 leading community support organisations, to help groups with the application process, through the advice and support service.”
Co-operatives UK is also a delivery partner on the scheme. Click here for details of the support it offers to community groups applying to the fund.