Plunkett’s Early Stage Support Helps Communities Access the Government’s Community Ownership Fund

Round two of funding from the government’s Community Ownership Fund (COF) opens today (10 June 2022, 13.00pm). The fund supports communities to take control of buildings at risk of being lost and transform them into thriving hubs for the benefit of local people. It’s part of the government’s commitment to level up local communities and so far 39 projects have been awarded grants that collectively total over £10 million.

Of the successful community projects that have been awarded COF funding – 25% (10 community projects including seven Plunkett members) have been supported on their journey to community ownership by the Plunkett Foundation. Plunkett’s network of specialist community business advisers has helped groups with an initial idea, through community consultation, to developing a business plan, establishing a committee, launching a community share offer and accessing the funding streams available to them. Whilst additionally helping groups build their confidence to take their early stage project and demonstrate a credible and sustainable community business plan for the Community Ownership Fund to consider.

Round Two of funding through the Community Ownership Fund is open initially for ‘Expressions of Interest’ (EoI) before a full application is submitted. The Expression of Interest stage, which will assess a projects eligibility and suitability for the fund, opens today, Friday 10th June at 13.00pm.

The Expression of Interest guidance and link to apply will be published on gov.uk at this address. All projects will have to complete an Expression of Interest, with only eligible projects then being sent a link to the full application form.

The ‘EoI’ is one of a number of changes to the fund from Round 1, aimed at helping even more communities to benefit from the resource available. Other significant changes include:

  • There will be 3 bidding “rounds” per year for full applications, Expressions of Interest (eligibility checks) can be completed at any time
  • The requirement for assets (related to a COF application) to have had use within the last 5 years has been removed as an eligibility requirement
  • Projects with a 15 year lease are now eligible for support, lower from the previous minimum of 25 years
  • The deadline for completing a project has been extended from 6 months to 12 months, from the date of a successful COF award.

More detail about the changes to the fund can be read via this link. The most significant change to the fund is the commitment to create an advisory support service, to work alongside the delivery of the fund. The department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (who are responsible for COF) intend to have appointed a provider or consortium of providers by later in this year. In the meantime, Plunkett Foundation remains committed to supporting those groups interested in applying for COF.

If you’d like to find out more about the fund, or need help with your community business project contact Plunkett for free advice and information on 01993 630022 or info@plunkett.co.uk

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Early Stage Support

Plunkett is a charity that provides free practical advice, support and training to help communities establish and run successful community businesses with long-term survival rates.

If you’re considering setting up a community-owned business, or are involved in an established group but need advice find out here how we can help.