The new £150 million Community Ownership Fund, which will be available through a number of application rounds between 2021-2025, is designed to enable and support UK community organisations to take ownership of assets such as parks, pubs and theatres. Applicants will be expected to prove that an asset is likely to be lost to the local area if the community does not intervene, and that local people will use it if it is taken over. Applicants will also have to show how the asset will be sustainable in the long term once it moves into community ownership.
Charities can bid for grants of up to £50,000 in revenue funding, and the government will match fund up to £250,000 in capital costs.
The Community Ownership Fund can provide up to 50% of the capital funding required up to the maximum £250,000 grant level. Applicants will be expected to secure 50% matched funding from other sources, including lenders, social investors, community share offers, statutory organisations, including local authorities, grant-making Trusts and National Lottery funders. However, the required 50% match does not have to be in place by the application deadline.
Matched funding can also include ‘in-kind’ contributions, such as equipment, property and waived professional fees.
Grants can be used to:
o Acquire a physical community asset or facility at risk, such as land and buildings which deliver a benefit to local people.
o Move a community amenity to a new, more appropriate location within the same community. This might be because a different location offers better value to continue the amenity, or because the venue is in itself an asset of community value.
o Renovate, repair or refurbish the asset, only where this is part of a sale or transfer to save a community asset at risk and where this is critical to saving the asset and making it sustainable.
o Set up a new community business or buy an existing business in order to save an asset or amenity of importance to the community, and/or
o The purchase of associated stock, collections or intellectual property, where it is associated with buying a physical asset or buying a business to save an amenity.
Applicants can apply for a blend of the following funding:
1. Capital grants to take ownership (including the acquisition of the building; refurbishment costs alongside a sale or a transfer). Up to £250,000 match-funded capital will be available for most asset types. Exceptionally bidders will be able to make the case for up to £1 million match-funding to help establish a community-owned sports club or help buy a sports club or ground at risk of being lost without community intervention.
2. Funding for project development - this might include professional fees for technical advice from architects or surveyors or legal advice. It might also include costs for project management to oversee capital works where this is part of an application.
3. Post-acquisition support funding for up to the first year of operation, where there is a convincing case that this will help support a sustainable business model in the long term. Up to £50,000 (and no more than 20% of the total capital costs applied for through the Fund) is available for project development costs and post-acquisition support.
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).
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. Projects could include (please note this is not an exclusive list):
o Community Centres.
o Community Shops.
o Music venues.
o Performance Spaces.
o Post Offices.
o Public Houses.
o Sport and Leisure Facilities, and
Each Community Asset must meet the following eligibility criteria:
1. Community Use - the asset will be used and accessed by the community or have had a community use in the recent past, which applicants will need to evidence in their application.
2. Community Value - applicants will need to show the contribution of the asset to their community including to the social wellbeing or cultural, recreational or sporting interests of the local place.
3. Long-term Sustainability - applicants will be required to demonstrate a clear plan for how the asset can be sustainable in community ownership in the long-term, and
4. There is a risk of loss without community intervention.
"Risk" might be from closure, sale, neglect and dereliction under current ownership, or unsustainable operations under the current business model. Applicants need to demonstrate the nature of the risk facing the asset. This will include evidence that without community intervention the asset or amenity would be lost to the community.
Funding is not available for:
o General revenue for community activities or events unrelated to the acquisition or transfer of a community asset or amenity.
o Local authorities (although they can be a match funding partner).
o New-build projects to develop new assets or amenities, unrelated to saving or preserving an existing asset or amenity.
o Paying off businesses' debts or to buy an indebted business.
o Private individuals.
o Purchase costs of publicly-owned assets.
o Purchasing housing assets.
o Town, parish and community councils, or
o Unincorporated organisations.
Further information, guidance and an application form is available on the MHCLG website.
The application deadline for Round 1 of the programme is Friday 13 August 2021. Round 2: December 2021. Round 3: May 2022. Further rounds will be announced in due course.