Webinar: Navigating the Community Ownership Fund & Sustainable Models for Land Stewardship Projects

As part of the Community Ownership Fund support programme, Shared Assets ran a free webinar to empower groups and social enterprises with insights on accessing grants and securing long-term stewardship models for land.

The webinar will be discussing the Community Ownership Fund, which is supporting communities to take ownership of their local assets, and groups can apply for up to £250k through the fund. You can find out more about what we are working on as part of the fund support programme here.

Read on below to find a list of the questions answered in the live session, as well as additional questions left by participants in the webinar.

Questions Asked & Answered in the Webinar 

[timestamps from webinar recording shown in square brackets]

[17.40] If the asset - redundant land and buildings is owned privately and being made available for sale to the local community - are they within this programme?

[18.46] So large landlords domination of peri-urban land who provide little public benefit and are anti working with CSA projects would fall out of scope?

[20.20] Is there a role for Community Land Trusts in this process?

[21.49] Can we apply for capital for a section 106 property leased for public benefit at peppercorn for 999 years?

[24.25] Can you provide any case studies for communities buying land?

[26.27] Is it worth communities applying to the fund in our area?

[30.10] Is there any support for LAs looking to identify suitable community organisation to take over an asset?

[30.42] If the asset is privately owned, does that matter in terms of future public benefit or use?

[40.58] Is the support package available across the UK? 

[42.53] How long do you have with the support before you need to submit the final application?

[43.30] Is the support package something that should be requested as part of the EoI? 

[44.37] As a community land rights group based in Wales would we be getting support from DTA Wales, Shared Assets or both?

[56.00] Can you offer guidance, off the top of your head, on how to demonstrate a strong "business case" and "strategic case" of projects?

[58.00] How do you calculate a reasonable cost for the asset - what is the fair price or value?

Further questions asked on the jamboard that weren’t answered live…

  1. Could the community apply to 'save' an area of private land, or does this all rely on the landowner’s willingness to part with the land in the first place?

There needs to be support from the asset (land) owner for a community asset transfer. In the case of privately owned assets, there does not need to be a formal agreement in place. However, there will need to be a realistic chance of sale in the next six months. Applicants should tell us about the evidence they have of this, and negotiations or agreements in principle that they have with the current owner.

  1. Does the asset have to be in existing use with evidence of historical need for the community, or is the fund available to 'start up' CIC/Charities responding to new/current/emerging needs?

To be in scope of the fund, the land should be a community asset or amenity at risk of loss without community intervention. It should have a current community use and community value or have been used by the community in the recent past (defined for the purpose of the Fund as the last five years).

Please be aware that new build projects to develop new amenities or assets, which are unrelated to saving or preserving an existing asset or amenity, are not within scope of the Fund. This is because the Fund is aimed at saving community assets and amenities which are at risk of loss.


  1. If I need a quote for work needed on the asset (such as restoration) can we get a COF development grant? 

Yes - up to £10k is available for such costs even before a bid is submitted. You can find out what in-depth support is available through the COF support programme here.

  1. Are there any templates that cover making a business case, a management case etc?

You can find these amongst the resources on the My Community website.

  1. How far is the final decision made by politicians ? If our MP is not in favour will this have an impact on chances of success?

Applications are assessed on their merit related to various factors presented within them, including (but not limited to) whether the asset is at risk without funding, whether the asset is a benefit to the community and needed by it, if the application includes a strong medium to long-term business case for the asset etc. If a local MP does not support your proposal, is there strong local community support for it, especially by those who will benefit from saving the asset? If so, provide evidence of this within an application or let your MP know about the support that exists to save the asset. 

  1. If the asset was agreed through biodiversity net gain in terms of a community land area or with an established wildlife group, will this funding be applicable?

Funding for land (including biodiverse and wildlife areas) which are at risk and benefit a community, can be applied for. Groups which can apply to the COF include incorporated voluntary and community organisations or parish (or equivalent) councils. Common legal structures for community organisations are expected to include CIOs, SCIOs, Co-operatives including Community Benefit Societies; CICs or not for profit companies limited by guarantee. Unincorporated applications can apply at the Expression of Interest (EOI) stage but must be an eligible organisation before applying at the full application stage.

  1. Can the need for space in nature be assessed as a community need? Can socio-benefits be measured for an asset?

You could certainly provide evidence of this need for a nature space e.g. surveying local people to identify if they want the space to be saved or how they would feel if it was not saved. We would advise that you combine this with a clear plan or strategy about how an income stream can be generated from this space to ensure it can be maintained in the medium to long term. You can find out what in-depth support is available through the COF support programme here.

So there can be no residential benefit resulting from these projects? Or is a couple of landworker dwellings in a CSA or managed woodland or orchard for its employees possible?

Projects which seek to purchase residential housing are not eligible as standalone projects. However, projects which may involve the purchase of accommodation as part of a mixed-use community asset would not be automatically excluded. An example of this might be a community facility which comes with accommodation as part of the building. To be eligible, the asset needs to be used by the wider community and applicants will need to show the contribution of the asset to their community including to the social wellbeing or cultural, recreational or sporting interests of the local place.

So the current owner has to want to collaborate? Is it related to a 'right to acquire' type situation where communities can wrestle neglected assets from council against their will?

In the case of publicly owned assets, a supporting statement will be required from the public body. For privately owned assets, see Q1 of this section.

Does the minimum lease term need to be 25 years?

According to the latest My Community page’s FAQs, a lease must be at least 15 years with reasonable break clauses. Given the competitiveness of this Fund, evidence of a longer lease will be one of the application’s elements that will help to make it stronger, so a 25 year lease is preferable. 

  1. Can you use volunteer times as match funding?

Volunteer time will not count as a source of match funding. The fund will provide up to 80% of capital costs. Applicants will have to match fund at least 20% of their capital costs themselves, however, the COF will consider other sources of in-kind match funding including donations of goods, buildings or professional services. This may be from an individual, a community group, other public sector funders, charitable / social investors or a private business. 

  1. Do you think a broad spectrum of marginalisation (member-led) might work with this fund?

Yes. Member-led community groups from marginalised sectors of society who wish to take on a community asset (but wouldn’t be able to without funding), are welcome to apply to the COF. See also Q6 in this section regarding which types of organisation are eligible to apply.

  1. Is there scope for a group of less marginalised people to apply, where one of the organisation's aims is to help lift up the more marginalised at the same time within the same project?

As long as the COF is used to save a community asset at risk and one that benefits a community or communities, it is eligible to apply as long as the applicant meets the organisation type to apply (see Q6 in this section). The asset saved can relate to: a place (e.g. a green space), as well as benefiting an identity, practice, or interest.

If you have more questions about the Community Ownership Fund and would like to get in touch with us, please don't hesitate to reach out to the consultancy team through hello@sharedassets.org.uk.

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