Government gives cash boost to community funds

The government has announced £250,000 of funding for the Community Shares Unit, to encourage people to protect their local pub by listing it as an asset of community value....

The government has announced £250,000 of funding for the Community Shares Unit, to encourage people to protect their local pub by listing it as an asset of community value.

Over 600 pubs have been registered so far, with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) making a community asset certificate available to every listed pub.

While visiting the Wheatsheaf pub in Wandsworth, community pubs minister Kris Hopkins said: “A lot of hard work has been put in by communities to protect their beloved pubs from sell-off and many more could be afforded this protection, which is why we are calling on people to celebrate the first ever Community Pubs Day by considering whether they might want to list their local.”

The Community Shares Unit, which is delivered by Co-operatives UK and Locality, helps local groups use community shares to finance projects such as the start-up or takeover of pubs, shops, piers, parks, renewable energy initiatives and football clubs. Communities have invested more than £50m over the past three years, with 150 new community-owned enterprises expected to emerge in 2015.

Speaking at the Ivy House pub in Southwark, communities minister Stephen Williams added: “We’re also extending funding to the Community Shares Unit so local groups can access the advice and guidance they need to buy their treasured asset and prevent developers calling time on their much-loved local.

“But don’t stop at just listing your local. Protect all your precious places by listing them as an asset of community value – from parks and piers to shops and stadiums – and get involved with the community rights revolution.”

The Community Shares Unit will get an additional £110,000 from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Since 2012, renewable energy ventures have raised over £29m of community share investment, according to DECC’s Community Energy Strategy update. Initiatives backed by the DECC include a dedicated standards guide for community energy and the training of practitioners to help community groups to issue best-practice financial promotions.

Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, said: “More and more people are turning to community shares to save vital services or get new ventures off the ground. By ensuring the policy environment is appropriate, sharing best practice and helping spread the idea, the Community Shares Unit plays a crucial role in helping community-owned enterprises.”

Mike Perry, head of development and policy at Plunkett, said: “From 6 April, pubs listed as an Asset of Community Value will trigger the disapplication of the national permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition for the period of the listing.

“This means communities will have a better chance of saving their local pub as a co-op, rather than seeing it converted to shops, offices, restaurants – or even demolished.

“This will apply when an asset is first nominated until the application process is complete, enabling communities to react when their local is threatened. The extended powers are warmly welcomed but we’d still like to see ACV status strengthened, for example by giving communities more time to raise the funding to save their local.”

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