Recently I have been visiting community groups in Torridge, discussing how I can help support the assets that sustain our local villages, and I am delighted the Government has just launched the third round of its £150 million Community Ownership Fund (COF).
The COF is designed for communities to take ownership of, or to enhance and make sustainable, important local assets and amenities that are at risk of being lost. The Government launched this fund as part of its Levelling Up agenda and I am keen to make sure Torridge and West Devon benefits. Whether it is a village shop that faces closure, or a local sports team that might lose its playing facilities, as the Levelling-Up Secretary says, “the Fund offers a great opportunity for local groups to take over community assets and to run them as businesses – by the community, for the community.”
This latest round makes it easier than before to gain access to grants and for community groups to get help to preserve much-loved local assets. The amount of funding that any project can bid for will be increasing from £250,000 up to £1 million, with the requirement for match-funding to be reduced as low as 10%. An element of the grant may also be used for revenue in the initial stages of the project. Moreover, Parish Councils will be able to apply to the fund for the first time – making sure these assets can run by the community at the most local level.
With the third-round bidding window open until 12 July, I would encourage as many local applications as possible. To do so, groups should begin by expressing their interest in the fund – this can be done at any point before submitting the bid. More information on how to do this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/community-ownership-fund-round-3-how-to-express-your-interest-in-applying. If successful, the Department for Levelling-Up will contact you to apply within a bidding window. You can read the full COF prospectus, alongside application advice, on the Government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-ownership-fund-prospectus. This third round of funding presents an exciting opportunity to support communities in preserving and enhancing community assets whose future may be in doubt.
If there is a local asset that you think would be deserving of the funding, I would encourage you to look at the application process. Please do get in touch with me on [email protected] to see how I may support your initiative!