Big Society gives away nearly £400,000 in first year
06:30 07 March 2013
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012
A community pot filled with hundreds of thousands of pounds will once again be up for grabs this spring after the successful first year of north Norfolk’s Big Society Fund.
Big Society Fund winners
The year’s largest Big Society Fund grant was awarded this week to Mundesley Youth and Community (MYC) which receives £45,000 towards a £206,550 multi use games area (Muga).
MYC members impressed the board with their fund-raising and commitment over four years which has seen them transform a piece of disused land into a community hub for residents and visitors, with a new children’s play area, skatepark and outdoor gym already completed.
The Muga will complete the four-phase project, according to MYC chairman Amanda Ng.
“This grant is fantastic news for our project,” said Mrs Ng. “Once you have got one grant then other bodies take your application more seriously. This official backing means we can move forward.”
Other groups who were successful in the last round of the year’s awards include:
● Gimingham Parish Council: 5,000 to install two more pieces of play equipment.
North Walsham and District Historical Society, £860 to establish a town archive.
● Northrepps Film Society, £750 for start-up costs.
● Holt Playing Field Association, £10,000 to extend the pavilion with toilets, changing facilities and a kitchen extension.
● Tunstead Parish Council, £10,000 to build a play area and path.
● The Patch, Sheringham Community Smallholding Project, £10,000 to build a multi-sensory garden.
Groups throughout the district are being urged to prepare their bids to make sure they get a scoop of next year’s fund which is once again expected to be £450,000 - or even more.
Projects ranging from a new Coastwatch station for Cromer to improved dressing rooms and toilets at North Walsham Football Club were among 47 which benefited from the first year’s handouts, totalling almost £400,000.
Overall, grants helped bump start projects with a combined value approaching £3m, improving the quality of life and community spirit in towns and villages from the far west to Sea Palling, Stalham and Neatishead in the east.
Trevor Ivory, chairman of the Big Society Fund board, said he was “enormously proud” that the North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) Conservative administration initiative had had such a major impact in so short a time.
"No community or project is too small. We have worked hard to make the process as easy as possible. You don’t have to be a professional fundraiser to apply - you just need the support of local people."
It had allowed dozens of worthwhile projects to get off the ground, despite a very difficult economic climate.
“We have had a great deal of interest from communities across north Norfolk during our first year.
“It would be fantastic to see even more innovative projects coming forward this year, especially from communities who have not applied before,” said Mr Ivory.
“No community or project is too small. We have worked hard to make the process as easy as possible. You don’t have to be a professional fundraiser to apply - you just need the support of local people.”
The fund uses NNDC’s slice of the second homes council tax. About 6pc, or £27,000, went to the Norfolk Community Foundation which administers the fund, and between £20,000 and £25,000 of un-allocated cash would be rolled over into next year’s pot, according to Rob Young, NNDC’s coast and community partnerships manager.
Under the previous Liberal Democrat administration the second homes council tax was used to fund seven Local Area Partnerships across the district, charged with regenerating their communities.
Mr Ivory said he believed the Big Society Fund represented a much better use of the cash, with far less spent on administration and salaries.
Instead, money had been given directly to communities which had shown their commitment to a project by thoroughly planning it and starting to fundraise. And in many cases grants triggered match-funding from other bodies.
Among Mr Ivory’s favourite grants were £5,000 for Stalham Brass Band to encourage young people to play instruments, and £9,550 for Active Norfolk, helping the popular north Norfolk Fit Together walks continue.
A review is now under way to see how the fund can be improved and a report will be produced for NNDC’s cabinet, after which new applications will be invited.