Press release

Community Shares Fund gets £600k boost to help save threatened high street buildings

Communities working together to save much-loved buildings and spaces will today be able to apply for a share of a new £600,000 pot from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF).

The AHF has become a valued funding partner on the Community Shares Booster Programme, alongside Power to Change. The programme, delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with Locality, supports community businesses to run successful community share offers. The wider fund is open for a wide range of projects, and AHF’s contribution is ring fenced for heritage projects that play an important role in high street revival and the economic resilience of an area.

Marsden Grocery Community Benefit Society located in a conservation area near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, is one of the first community businesses to receive investment from the Architectural Heritage Fund, via the Community Shares Booster Programme.

The group has received matched investment of £6,650 towards their community share offer, which saw 396 local people come together raise over £53,000 to set up a co-operative grocery store after their local greengrocers closed.  

Located in the stunning Colne Valley at the edge of the Pennines, Marsden is a large post-industrial village in the metropolitan borough of Kirklees, West Yorkshire, which has recently seen several local retail businesses close. Thanks to the actions of local residents who came together to raise funds, the grocery will act as a valuable lifeline in the village community.

“Marsden can feel a long way away from anywhere, particularly for older people and those struggling to make ends meet. Losing our greengrocers felt like a real moment of threat in our community. We were seriously worried that other retail businesses would follow and that our self-sufficiency, which is a village hallmark, would be lost.”

“Support from the Community Shares Booster programme has been so important to the development of the shop. It gave us much-needed hope when we felt daunted by how much we had to raise. And the process of assessment itself was really helpful. It made us really think through the choices we were making and our business plan is far stronger for having to go through such a rigorous procedure. All in all, it’s strengthened our planning, built our confidence. And, of course, we’re really glad that we were awarded the money!” Fiona Russell, Chair of Marsden Grocery Community Benefit Society. 

 This new £600,000 injection of funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund will pay for grants of up to £10,000 to community businesses, helping them launch community share offers. Equity investments of up to £50,000 to match amounts raised in community shares are also available.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, which administers the funding scheme, said, “We are delighted to be working with the Architectural Heritage Fund, supporting community owned businesses like Marsden Grocery, which act as vital anchor businesses to keep local high streets alive and help retain the heritage character of these special places. Community shares are a co-operative solution to high street closures with local residents becoming co-owners, meaning they have a vested interest in the businesses continued success.”

Matthew Mckeague, CEO at the Architectural Heritage Fund, said:

“The Architectural Heritage Fund has been investing in community share offers for a number of years, including co-operative pubs such as the Ivy House in Peckham and workspaces such as Portland Works in Sheffield. We are excited by this new partnership with Co-operatives UK and look forward to working with them in supporting community businesses that will breathe new life into high streets and town centres through the regeneration of historic buildings."

Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive at Power to Change said:

“Our research has shown that big business alone cannot solve the country’s high street crisis. Communities are absolutely key to finding the right solutions for them and knowing what kind of business they need on their doorsteps. The fact that so many people in Marsden put their hands in their pockets to support Marsden Grocery is testament to how valued it is. It is extremely positive that AHF shares our vision and has provided this essential funding which will be ringfenced specifically for high street projects.”

Community shares are a popular approach to raising finance, in which local people invest often small sums of money and become co-owners of vital local enterprises – from pools to pubs, community housing to heritage buildings.

The Community Shares Booster Programme has helped communities across the country to own, develop and save much-loved spaces and buildings including Nenthead Chapel in Cumbria, Stretford Public Hall in Manchester, Sutton Community Farm in London and Jubilee Pool in Penzance. Since 2016 it has invested over £1.7m into community businesses across the country.  Both Stretford Public Hall and Jubilee Pool have also received funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund.


Communities wanting to find out more or who are considering community share offers can find out more at https://communitysharesbooster.org.uk/apply

For information about funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund, please contact Gavin Richards on 07527 205422 or email [email protected]