The first bidding round for the new Community Ownership Fund officially opened on July 15th. Over the next four years, the £150 million fund will support communities in taking ownership of assets and amenities at risk of closure if there is demonstrable value of the asset to local people and the asset can be sustainably managed for the long-term benefit of the community.
At least eight bidding rounds have been planned; the first is open now and has a deadline of 13th August 2021 (the next round of bidding won’t open again until December 2021).
To be eligible for funding, applicants must demonstrate that their community asset fulfils the following criteria:
For the first round of applications, priority will be given to projects that are ready to access capital funding and complete their projects within six months. Realistically, this initial round will be most suitable for community groups who have done preliminary work and have a viable business plan.
Applicants must be able to demonstrate that the asset is at risk, that there is a realistic chance of sale or transfer within six months of the application, and they must also be able to provide a full business plan. In addition, applicants will need to demonstrate, in principle, proof of ownership or leasehold (of at least 25 years).
Matched capital grants of up to £250,000 will be available for most projects. The fund will provide up to 50% of total capital costs, matching other funds and resources raised by the applicant. Bidders can also apply for some revenue funding to help with the associated revenue costs of taking an asset into community ownership.
Due to the higher costs involved in some sports related assets, an increased cap of up to £1 million match capital funding will be available to help establish a community-owned sports club or help buy a sports ground at risk of being lost without community intervention.
Applications will only be accepted from incorporated organisations which are set up to deliver charitable purpose, social purpose or public benefit. Local authorities are not eligible to apply, nor are unincorporated organisations or private individuals.
Where assets are currently publicly owned and in scope of fund as set out above, capital grants from the Community Ownership Fund can only be used to support renovation and refurbishment costs, alongside the sale or transfer of the asset. The fund will not finance the purchase costs of such assets, where a public authority would credit a capital receipt and it will only invest in community assets which would otherwise be lost.
They will not fund projects which involve the passing across of unsustainable liabilities (for example high maintenance or staffing costs with no plan on how to cover these) to community organisations and those which may lead to the reduction of services which the council has a statutory duty to provide.
Applicants will be required to raise other sources of funding, alongside investment from the Community Ownership Fund. Eligible sources of match funding will include funding from public bodies, charitable trusts, national lottery funders, community shares or social investors.
A full guidance document for applicants is published on GOV.UK.
The online portal for applications will open on 30 July 2021. A full application template is also published at GOV.UK.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government will be running webinars for applicants throughout July and in the first weeks of August. Full details will be published and updated on GOV.UK.