As a successful funding partnership between the Community Shares Unit (CSU) and the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) draws to a close, we’re looking back and celebrating what we’ve achieved together over the past four years.
Through the Community Shares Booster Fund, the Community Shares Unit at Co-operatives UK continues to support community share offers – a unique form of finance that communities use to start, grow and sustain businesses that provide local solutions and boost local economies.
The Booster Fund’s community shares investments are key to enabling co-operative businesses to develop and thrive. Community shares funding is often an essential element for unlocking other forms of finance such as commercial loans and major grants – because when funders see the community buy-in, it gives them confidence in the project.
To date in the UK, 130,000 people have raised £210 million investing in 540 community businesses and organisations through a total of 710 share offers. We’re proud to play a key role in making this happen – and in enabling more and more people to become community shares investors.
Having the Architectural Heritage Fund as a funding partner has allowed the Booster Fund to support numerous heritage-based businesses – and help people across the country find enterprising ways to revitalise the old buildings they love.
By creating community enterprises, these heritage projects can reduce their grant dependence and produce sustainable trading businesses via community shares.
Throughout our partnership with Architectural Heritage Fund, the Booster Fund has provided £91,540 as development grants to help communities prepare their share offers.
The Booster Fund has also invested equity of £508,460 in projects via AHF’s backing, which levered in an additional £2,202,437 from 2,945 community investors in 12 separate community share offers. This means that for every £1 of AHF money the Booster Fund invested in heritage projects, the community invested an additional £4.33.
Co-operatives UK invested a further £175,000 in these projects via funding from other Booster Fund backers. In total, community investment and our Booster equity investments across the 12 projects came to £2,885,897 – 5.7 times more than the original £508,460 equity that AHF invested.
Disused shopping arcades, libraries, schools and swimming pools that sit at the heart of communities – these are the kinds of much-loved heritage sites that the Fund has helped bring back to life.
They’ve been saved by local groups, who’ve had them restored for everyone to benefit from, embedding a sense of pride and wellbeing in individuals and the wider community.
The Exchange in Erith, Greater London, is one such project. A community-owned organisation, it has transformed an old library into a bustling focal point that hosts community-led programmes and activities.
In 2021, a community share offer raised £150,000 to help renovate the building, which included match funding from the Community Shares Booster Fund.
Now, with 464 shareholder members and more than 170 volunteers, The Exchange provides craft workshop spaces, including print, textiles, ceramics, woodwork and a garden, where volunteers can develop skills and make new connections. It has also become an invaluable meeting point for local people.
Holmfirth Tech in West Yorkshire is another heritage site that was brought back to life with help from our funding partnership with the Architectural Heritage Fund. Originally a technical institute and later a local college, the building dates back to 1892.
It had been derelict for some time when another venue closed, leaving the town bereft of vital community space. So a group of locals took action to restore the building. A community share offer raised £150,000 towards renovation costs, which included matched funding from the Community Shares Booster Fund.
Holmfirth Tech now hosts a community choir, a children’s arts school, weekly ukulele classes, craft classes a co-working space and more.
In the Lincolnshire market town of Caistor, funding from our partnership is supporting the restoration project for 2-4 Market Place – a complex of interlinked historic buildings at the heart of the town.
Derelict and disused for over a decade, the empty site has seen footfall drop off in the town centre. So a group of locals has raised £2.4 million to turn the complex into a home for shops, a café, a community venue and holiday rental homes. An old courtyard will also be re-stored and turned into a space for people to use and enjoy.
The group formed a community benefit society – the Caistor and District Community Trust (CDCT) – and raised funds from numerous sources including a community share offer.
The Booster Fund provided a grant to help them launch the offer, as well as £75,000 in matched funding to go alongside the £95,000 raised in community investment. The first shop premises are now due to be ready by the end of 2023 – and the entire project completed by Autumn 2024.
CDCT Chair Neil Castle said: “The matched funding was fantastic. We were able to go to the community and tell them that for every pound they gave – up to £75,000 – we’d have another pound coming from the Booster Fund.
“Community involvement is incredibly important in projects like this. When you talk to other funders and they see the community buy-in, it gives them a huge amount of confidence. I can’t emphasise how important this is as part of a funding model.”
A century-old lido, a village shop, a community pub, a 19th century shopping arcade – these are just some of the other community restoration projects we’ve been able to support via the Booster Fund thanks to our partnership with the Architectural Heritage Fund – making a difference to lives and communities throughout the country.
The CSU is now seeking to partner with other sector-specific funding partners in the Booster Fund, This will further unlock specialised community shares support in the same manner as trail blazed by AHF funding into the Booster Fund.
The CSU would like to thank the Architectural Heritage Fund for all their help and support assessing applications and providing helpful feedback to applicants. Their expertise has also helped developed our understanding of the key issues in heritage projects, which will be invaluable for the future of the Booster Fund’s decision making for awards and support to applicants.