Devon Communities Together press release
Launch of a major campaign to help our village halls to thrive
HRH The Countess of Wessex, President of the Devon County Agricultural Association which stages the Devon County Show, will be present at the launch of a major campaign by Devon Communities Together to support our Village Halls and community buildings on the first day of the County Show.
The Love Devon’s Village Halls Campaign has the ambitious target of building a £1M fund. The fund will make loans to halls, and is aiming to open to applications as soon as it reaches the first target figure of £100,000.
Devon Communities Together has over 50 years experience of working with village halls and community buildings. We know how much they matter to communities, and how hard their volunteers work to keep them in good order and welcoming for people of all ages.
70% of halls offer sessions targeted at older people, 40% host pre-school children, 42% cater for children aged 5-12. Many offer a great variety of other much valued services. They host community shops and post offices, community libraries, social and civic activities of all kinds and increasingly care related groups. Having a good hall helps local people to come together and gives heart of their communities.
However funds aimed at supporting halls have become harder to find. For instance the Big Lottery Community Buildings programme closed to new applications earlier in 2017. Devon Communities Together’s President John Lee OBE is very keen to see these vital assets well supported and has worked with trustees and staff of DCT to bring this project together. He is particularly pleased that David Fursdon, Devon Lord Lieutenant, has agreed to be Patron of this campaign and will be speaking to invited guests at the launch on 18th May.
Teresa Butchers, Chair of the Trustees at Devon Communities Together, said: “We are delighted to launch our Village Halls Campaign and we are honoured to be able to do this in front of the Countess of Wessex. We hope that people who live in the county, and our many visitors will support this campaign to maintain a thriving network of valuable village halls”.
Our President John Lee OBE and Chairman Teresa Butchers will be available for comment at the launch event and afterwards at the Devon Communities Stand next to the shop on Avenue A.
Following the closure of the DCT Community Buildings County Grants Scheme in 2015 there has been ongoing discussion within DCT on the possibility of securing further funding to maintain this important access to funding for community buildings. A small working group came together in 2014/15 and discussions took place with the Leader of Devon County Council about setting up a loan scheme, whilst he was initially interested, the discussions subsequently came to nothing. In the meantime other sources of grant funding have dried up and at the time of writing this paper we have just been advised that the Big Lottery
Community Buildings Programme has closed to new applications. In the light of reducing funding sources for community buildings a small working group (Elaine Cook, Lesley Smith and Martin Rich recently joined by our Chairman) has been exploring, with the help of our President, Mr John Lee, the feasibility of launching an appeal to provide a capital fund to support Devon’s Village Halls and Community Buildings.
Why Community Buildings matter:
From research undertaken by DCT we know why community buildings matter. We have identified over 500 multi use community buildings in Devon. These buildings, which are primarily either owned or managed by the community, have a total asset value of over £160 million, and raise over £7 million in income per annum. Over a three year period, the research found that community buildings spent over £11 million on large scale repairs and improvements, with almost 80% of this going to local builders. The need for £23 million of additional capital improvements was also identified at that time. Across the county, a total of 335,000 volunteer hours (valued at over £5 million) was spent on community buildings in a single year.
Services and activities delivered from these community buildings include children and youth activities, older people’s services, health and fitness groups, outreach GP surgeries, community shops and farmers markets. At the time of the study, almost 70% of community buildings offered services targeted at older people, 40% services for pre-school children and 42% services for children aged 5 – 12. In addition, 14% hosted a community shop or post office and 11% offered health or social care services (a proportion which is likely to have risen since the research was undertaken).
A sum of £1M was identified as the target with a first target of £100,000 when loans will then be possible.
The appeal to be launched under the ‘Love Devon’ brand. The way in which the fund would be administered has been agreed: we will use the fund primarily to make loans to Village halls and community buildings, with an option of making small facilitation grants available once the fund is well established. This will ensure the funds received will be circulated and benefit halls for many years to come.
DCT hopes the campaign will interest individuals, organisations and charitable trusts who want to support community life across Devon.