From community centres to brand new social housing schemes, the new £14 million Community Led Project Support fund is opening up possibilities for communities to push forward local building projects right across the country.
Locality is in touch with dozens of local groups and parish councils interested in taking up the grants to improve their communities.
It is operating a free advice line through the My Community Rights support service to enable many more to come forward and discuss the options.
The grant pot managed by the HCA (Homes and Communities Agency) can be used to cover the cost of getting ideas for community building development off the drawing board and up to planning application stage, including paying for detailed site plans and professional fees.
Locality Development Officer Lyn Kesterton said: “Until relatively recently, this grant was only available to projects using the Community Right to Build, but now the eligibility criteria has been widened to include projects of all types moving towards planning permission.
“This makes it really attractive to all sorts of organisations working to improve their communities through local building projects, whether they are community halls, houses, shops, pubs or other community facilities. “
Among the projects that have applied for funding so far is a reinvigorated plan to rebuild Repton’s ailing village hall, which had suffered from a reduced funding regime and rising development costs.
John Perks, a director of the Repton Village Hall Company, said: “Over the years we have done a lot of detailed work to move the project forward and local people have put their hearts into supporting it, but we failed to win the grants we were relying on and this set us back.
“However when the HCA recently opened up its fund to projects moving towards planning permission, we were immediately enthused again and everyone now feels there is a much more realistic chance of making progress.”
The Margate Caves Community Education Trust is also applying for funding to help it progress to planning permission for a community centre on the old Margate Caves site.
To support the project the caves will be re-opened as a tourist attraction and the building will therefore also include a gift shop, café and exhibition space.
The Community Led Project Support Fund is offered to groups in England (outside London) by the HCA and is linked to the programme of community rights introduced under the Localism Act, which also includes the Community Right to Bid, the Community Right to Challenge and Neighbourhood Planning.
Groups based in the Greater London area should contact the Greater London Authority.
Advice and support on all the rights is being provided by Locality, which is the leading network of community groups in the country, with 700 members.
Guidance on how to apply for Community Led Project Support funding is available through the My Community Rights advice service at www.mycommunityrights.org.uk or by visiting the HCA website www.homesandcommunities.co.uk or the GLA www.london.gov.uk/
For all the latest news see Thursday’s (January 9) Echo.