The government’s new £150 million Community Ownership Fund aims to ensure that communities across the United Kingdom can own and manage their most treasured local community assets.
Whether it’s the pub on the high street that’s facing closure, a village shop or a local sports team that might lose its ground – this is an opportunity for groups to take them over and to run them as businesses by the community for the community.
These are the institutions, the glue in our social fabric, that give people a chance to meet their neighbours and friends and bond over a shared love of where they live. Institutions that affirm powerful links between identity and place, between the past and the future and between community and purpose.
The £150 million Community Ownership Fund is for communities across the United Kingdom. It has been set up to help communities take ownership of assets and amenities at risk of closure. It will run for 4 years.
Voluntary and community organisations can bid for match funding.
Funding may support the purchase and/or renovation costs of community assets and amenities, subject to the full eligibility criteria outlined in this prospectus.
The fund will support a range of community ownership proposals. For example, projects may include:
- sporting and leisure facilities
- cinemas and theatres
- music venues
- post office buildings
Proposals will need to prove the value of the asset to local people and that the asset can run sustainably for the long-term benefit of the community.
This prospectus sets out information on the:
- funding available
- how to apply
- assessment criteria
The Fund will run until 2024/25 and there will be at least 8 bidding rounds in total.
Other key dates are as follows:
- 13 August 2021 – deadline for submitting applications to the first bidding round
- December 2021 – round 2 will open
- May 2022 – round 3 will open
The Community Ownership Fund has 4 strategic objectives:
- provide targeted investment for communities to save community assets that would otherwise be lost
- strengthen capacity and capability in communities to support them to shape their places and develop sustainable community businesses
- empower communities in left behind places to level up
- strengthen direct links between places across the UK and the UK governmen
For the purposes of this Fund, community ownership refers to the ownership and management of local community assets or amenities by a community organisation in order to deliver benefits for the community and place. To be eligible for investment from the Fund, the terms of community ownership must be either the ownership of the freehold or a long-term leasehold of at least 25 years minimum (with no break clauses).
Community ownership of assets can boost local connections, participation and pride of place, and bolster community resilience. By investing in the capacity of communities across the United Kingdom to take ownership of the places and spaces that matter to them, we will strengthen the social infrastructure that helps communities to thrive.
All applicants must demonstrate the potential of their projects to deliver against all of the following outcomes:
- protect a community asset or amenity that is at risk and preserve its community value
- develop a sustainable operating model to secure the long-term future of the community asset in community ownership
- safeguard the use of community assets and associated local amenities
All applicants must also show how their project will help deliver one or more of the following outcomes for their place:
- increase feelings of pride and improve perceptions of the local area as a place to live
- improve social trust, cohesion and sense of belonging
- increase local participation in community life, arts and culture and/or sport
- create additional local economic outcomes – including creating jobs, volunteering opportunities and improving employability and skills levels in the local community
- create additional social and wellbeing outcomes – including delivering positive impact in physical and/or mental health and reducing loneliness and social isolation
Investment will be made in community ownership projects where these assets and amenities make the biggest difference to the local place.
Priorities for bidding round 1
We recognise that communities across the United Kingdom who are interested in this fund will be at different stages. We will run at least 8 bidding rounds, to give all communities the chance to submit a bid at the right time for them.
The priorities for the first round are to invest in projects which are ready to access capital funding and complete their projects within 6 months. All round 1 bids must be submitted by 13 August 2021.
This bidding round will be most suitable for community groups who have done preliminary work and have a viable business plan to take ownership of the local asset or amenity at risk.
Applicants must be able to demonstrate the asset is at risk, has a realistic chance of sale or transfer within 6 months of applying to the Fund, and be able to provide a full business plan for how the community asset will be run sustainably.
Matched capital grants of up to £250,000 will be available for most projects. In exceptional cases, up to £1 million matched capital grants will be available to help establish a community-owned sports club or help buy a sports club or sporting facilities at risk of being lost.
The Community Ownership Fund will provide up to 50% of total capital costs, matching other funds and resources raised by the applicant. Applicants will need to demonstrate they have raised other funds to cover the total capital costs of their project. For this round of funding, applicants will need to show they will be ready to draw down capital funding from the Community Ownership Fund within 6 months of their application.
The UK government recognises that taking ownership of a community asset and running it as a sustainable community business requires the right mix of revenue funding alongside capital grants. Bidders can therefore apply for some revenue funding to help with the associated revenue costs of taking an asset into community ownership.
Revenue will not need to be matched and applicants can apply for grants up to a maximum of £50,000 (and no more than 20% of total capital costs applied for through the Fund) providing they can demonstrate how this funding will support them to complete their project and develop a sustainable operating model.
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