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Local pubs, museums and sports clubs secured with £12.3m levelling up boost Published Date: 02/10/2023

Pubs, museums and sports clubs across the United Kingdom have been given vital funding from Government to secure their future for generations to come.

Forty-five treasured spaces in our villages, towns and cities will receive more than £12.3m in funding so they can be run by the community, for the community.

Thanks to the latest funding from the government’s Community Ownership Fund, these institutions will be owned and run by community groups.

£1 million will rebuild a historic Yorkshire railway bridge in urgent need of repair, which carries the railway line over Bridgehouse Beck between Keighley and Oxenhope.

The funding will protect a tourist rail line which is used by more than 250,000 passengers a year, and will improve transport infrastructure in the region so that the local economy can continue to thrive. The original bridge was built in 1867, and the railway line has featured in dozens of films and TV shows over the years including The Railway Children in 1970.

David Pearson, Co-ordinator for External Finance & Resources at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society, said:

We’re overjoyed to have received this funding, which will be going towards the complete rebuilding of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway’s bridge 27 in the middle of the railway at Haworth and in the middle of Haworth village.

It means that the long term survival of train services on the railway is ensured and means everything to our railway, our villages and our people.

An educational aerospace discovery centre in Kinross will be created with £300,000 from the fund, offering interactive learning opportunities and exhibitions which will inspire future generations to pursue STEM careers.

And the Vale of Aeron pub in Ystrad Aeron, Wales, which was known as a favourite haunt of the legendary poet Dylan Thomas, has been given £300,000 for renovations to keep it open and make it accessible to the whole community.

Jacob Young, Minister for Levelling Up, said:

Our priority is to support communities and deliver opportunities right across the country, which is why we’re investing £12.3m to secure the future of cherished community institutions.

These places – from pubs to historic railway lines – are the golden thread which run through our social fabric, and keeping them going is vital for supporting communities.

Other projects which have received funding include:

  • Lordsfield Swimming Club in Hampshire, a volunteer-run facility which will be sustained for the future with an £835,400 grant so it can provide low-cost swimming to local schools and the wider community.
  • £1.2 million to secure the future of four pubs, including the Vale of Aeron, so they can continue to pull pints for locals.
  • Knutsford Market Hall in Cheshire received £560,000 to ensure it continues to host and support a number of small businesses.
  • Sterts Theatre in Cornwall will be restored with £300,000 so that it can resume its community and professional performances.
  • The Margate School in Kent will be able to undertake essential repairs with £400,000 that will secure a long-term future for the not-for-profit art school.
  • Dartford Gym and Youth Club will undergo essential refurbishment with £244,920 to restore it as a space for local schools, clubs and community organisations to engage in sport and social activities.

The Community Ownership Fund has now given £49.3 million for 195 projects across the UK. This includes almost £8 million for thirty-three pubs so that local people can still go to their beloved local, and £14.6 million for sixty six community centres so they can continue to play an important role in people’s lives.

The latest round of allocations includes £770,057 for three projects in Wales, £992,825 for four projects in Scotland and more than £1m for four projects in Northern Ireland.

Changes which came into effect for this round of bids also meant that all projects could bid for up to £1 million in funding, not just sports clubs, and the amount organisations needed to match fund decreased to only 20%, to allow more places to benefit.

The George pub in Kent previously benefited from a £250,000 grant from the fund, which allowed it to reopen in May 2023. The pub shut during the Covid-19 pandemic and the owners decided to sell up and retire, but locals were able to get the doors open again because of the funding and are now planning for the future.

Local resident Alex Withington said:

We’re going to have a café that opens during the day too. When we did a survey, a lot of people said they wanted somewhere during day to use as well.

We’re also looking to have a petanque area and a community library in the pub. We’re just so happy to have helped restore The George to the heart of Bethersden for our community.

The Community Ownership Fund is currently open again for bids and will close on 11th October 2023, and groups are being urged to apply for up to £2m in funding for the very first time.