The government has opened bidding in the first round of funding under the Community Ownership Fund. £150 million is being provided over four years to support community groups take ownership of assets and amenities at risk of being lost.

Match funding is available to voluntary and community groups in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland across eight bidding rounds until 2024/25.

The first round of funding closes on 13 August, having opened 15 July. 

Objectives

The Community Ownership Fund has four 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 government

To be eligible for investment from the Fund, the terms of community ownership must be either owning the freehold asset or a long-term leasehold of at least 25 years minimum (with no break clauses).

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.

The fund intends to support a range of community ownership proposals including, Sporting and leisure facilities, cinemas and theatres, museums, parks, pubs and post offices.

Round one funding

The priorities for the first round are to invest in projects which are ready to access capital funding and complete their projects within six months. All round one 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 six 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 six months of their application.

Revenue funding

Bidders can also 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.

What will not be funded

The Community Ownership Fund will not provide funding to:

  • Pay off businesses’ debts or to buy an indebted business.
  • Purchase housing assets.
  • New-build projects to develop new assets or amenities, unrelated to saving or preserving an existing asset or amenity.
  • General revenue for community activities or events unrelated to the acquisition or transfer of a community asset or amenity
  • Purchase costs of publicly-owned assets.

Eligibility

Organisations must show long-term community benefit through their charitable purpose and/or an asset lock within their governing documents. The legal structures of organisations across the United Kingdom we might expect to apply include the following:  

  • A Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).   
  • Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO).
  • Co-operatives including Community Benefit Societies. 
  • Community Interest Company (CiC). 
  • Not-for-profit company limited by guarantee.

Read the guidance documents which will help applicants understand how they can demonstrate their potential to deliver these outcomes in their funding proposals.

Seven more rounds of financing will be available and other key dates:

  • 13 August 2021: deadline for submitting applications to the first bidding round.
  • December 2021: round two will open.
  • May 2022: round three will open.

Useful guides on this topic

Mutual trading, members clubs and community trades
How are mutual traders, members clubs, associations and community trades treated for tax purposes?

Land & Property: Relevant residential & relevant charitable purpose
What are the VAT rules for land and property that is used for a relevant residential purpose or a relevant charitable purpose? What are the claw back provisions affecting change of ownership or use?

External links

Community Ownership Fund: prospectus

Community Ownership Fund application

Community Ownership Fund: assessment criteria guidance


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