ACRE wins community loan fund contract
by Chris Cowcher,

ACRE wins community loan fund contract

Leading rural network ACRE has been reawarded the contract to manage a £700,000 Defra loan fund for rural community buildings.

The Rural Community Buildings Loan Fund plays a crucial role in helping community groups renovate, refurbish and construct buildings such as village halls, church halls and community centres.

It encourages communities to raise funds, knowing a loan could be available to help them meet their target and win funding from other sources.

The average loan taken out by hall committees is around £15,000 – but larger loans are considered. Around 40 loans are live at any one time and ACRE makes around 10 to 14 new loans every year. The interest charged on the loan is returned to the Government, but capital is put back into the fund to support other community buildings.

ACRE, the national voice for England’s network of 38 rural community councils (RCCs), has been managing the Fund for more than 25 years as part of its dedicated service for village halls and other community buildings.

Through a nationwide team of specialist advisers employed by its Network, ACRE supports the 80,000 volunteers behind the 10,000 village halls at the heart of England’s rural communities. Advice and guidance is available on a host of issues, such as licensing, employment, funding and health and safety.

"The fund is a real boon for communities because it allows work to be done immediately, bringing instant benefits."

ACRE also speaks up for village halls, ensuring Government policymakers are aware of the challenges faced by volunteers who are often struggling with red-tape and the demands of managing a community building.

ACRE’s Rural Community Buildings Officer Deborah Clarke said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the contract to manage the loan fund for another three years.

“The fund is a real boon for communities because it allows work to be done immediately, bringing instant benefits. The process is simple and applicants are guided by their local RCC advisers who have in-depth knowledge of the challenges of managing a community building.

“We have helped hundreds of communities who tell us that without the loan fund, the refurbishment of their village hall would never have happened. We’re also keen to hear from groups who want construct a new building, through the Community Right to Build powers or acquire an existing building for community use, through the Community Right to Bid powers.”

Defra said: “The Rural Community Buildings Loan Fund plays an important role in supporting vital community buildings that sit at the heart of rural life. We would encourage communities to use the fund not only for the maintenance and improvement of current community buildings but also to help communities bring buildings into community use and ownership where there is a local need.”

“Details of how to apply for a loan are now available.”:/our-work/rural-community-buildings-loan-fund