Villages in Monmouthshire have one month left to apply for a share of a five million pounds fund of lottery cash allocated to Wales to create exciting community enterprises to revitalise their area and meet the needs of local people.
Projects have until 5pm on Thursday October 20 to claim up to £30,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS Active competition, which follows hot on the heels of the primetime BBC One series, Village SOS.
Anyone living in a rural village of less than 3,000 people, with an enterprising idea should register at www.villagesos.org.uk where they will find more details as well as an online support network. All they need do is outline their idea in a quick and easy online form and the best entries will be chosen to complete a full application for a grant of between £10,000 and £30,000. Extra support for those interested in applying is available via a telephone advice line - 0845 434 9123 - with experts giving practical tips on how to develop their ideas and make their village business a success.
The funding is part of a wider BIG Lottery campaign offering resources to help communities reverse rural decline and revive village life. From business plan templates to an expert advice line and regional learning events, the campaign aims to help communities rejuvenate their villages and start up new business ventures that will help people tackle local problems such as the closure of vital amenities and services, or a lack of training and employment opportunities.
The BBC Village SOS TV series, broadcast over the last few weeks, followed the journey of six UK villages, including two in Wales, as they each used a Big Lottery Fund grant to set up a new community business. Projects included the Melin Talgarth Mill project in Powys, squaring up to the challenges of restoring the grade II listed 18th century watermill in the town back to its former glory. Cameras also followed the Myddfai project in Carmarthenshire taking on the demolition of the old community centre to develop a new community led business venture for the village.
Other examples of community enterprises that have used small amounts of money to get the ball rolling in their villages include community food shops and coffee shops, cycle schemes, pubs run by a co-operative of local people, community farms, bakeries and local people taking over the running of their village post office.
Urging Welsh communities to apply for the money, Big Lottery Fund Wales Committee Member and Village SOS Committee Member, Mike Theodoulou, said: “The Village SOS TV series has been a tremendous success, showing what can be achieved when communities come together. But we don’t want the interest and inspiration to end with the series. We want this £5m to help people in other rural areas to pull together and develop their own ideas for a new businesses or enterprise that will really make a difference to their local community.
“Every year hundreds of local amenities such as shops and pubs close down in rural areas. The effects of this, along with limited transport options, rural isolation and lack of employment opportunities for young people, can be dire. We want this funding and the support provided through the Village SOS website to inspire community action and help people buck this trend.”
Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation, rural community enterprise experts who are running the Village SOS telephone advice line, said: “An estimated 400 village shops and 700 rural pubs closed in 2010; broadband provision in rural areas is still a long way behind urban areas, and soaring house prices due to second-home owners are leaving villages across the UK in a worrying state.”
“But an increasing number of rural communities are fighting back against such closures by setting up and running their own enterprises. There are now 260 community-owned shops across the UK with a 97% business success rate. Through Village SOS Active, we hope to continue to enthuse and inspire villages to build on this success and use the power of community-ownership to deliver long-term benefits to their community, by setting up and running anything from community cafes, shops, and pubs to library services, swimming pools or healthcare services.”