£50m pledge for village communities

IAN CLARKE A new generation of modern and well-equipped village halls and community centres could be created in East Anglia after a £50m pledge by the Big Lottery Fund.

IAN CLARKE

A new generation of modern and well-equipped village halls and community centres could be created in East Anglia after a £50m pledge by the Big Lottery Fund.

Community groups are being urged to make a bid for part of the nationwide investment and strengthen the part the buildings play in village life.

The Big Lottery Fund's Community Buildings programme will make the money available over three years, with grants of between £50,000 and £500,000 to improve, replace or introduce a centre into a community that provides services and activities to meet the needs of a range of people.

The money is not limited to specific geographic areas - so it is hoped East Anglia could be a big beneficiary as it has a large rural population and many village halls.

A Norfolk village hall survey in 2003 revealed almost a third of buildings were between 50 and 100 years old.

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At the time more than £2m worth of urgent repairs and £3m of non-urgent repairs were identified - and that figure will have grown due to the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Sara Betsworth, Big Lottery Fund head of Eastern region, said: “Under the Community Buildings programme we will fund buildings that are a focus for neighbourhood activity and house a range of services that meet communities' needs.

“This includes community centres, village halls and other community buildings.

“These buildings often act as hubs, bringing people together and promoting increased community participation and improving community relationships.”

The funding programme is open to voluntary or community organisations - including charities, unincorporated associations, not-for-profit companies, credit unions, self-help groups or co-operatives and faith based community organisations, parish councils or church-based faith organisations.

The programme will support sustainable buildings that are adaptable to a variety of community needs, have a reduced impact on the environment and can be maintained by the community in the long term.

It is also important for applications to demonstrate accessibility and meaningful involvement of the local community in both use and management of the centre.

Applications to the Community Buildings programme will be assessed in two stages and applicants wanting to apply for a grant, must submit their first stage application form by 30 April, 2007. Application forms are available at: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

The Big Lottery Fund will distribute, through its new programmes and allocations, funding worth more than £2.6bn up to April 2009.

Regularly updated information on the fund's new programme is available at: www.biglotteryfun.org.uk / publications