Villages across the South East are set to benefit from a new campaign to help communities buck the trend of rural decline by starting up new community enterprises.
The UK-wide Village SOS Active campaign, launched by the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) includes a £5m funding pot, that aims to inspire and equip people in rural communities to tackle local problems and help revive their local area.
They might restore and take over the local pub, create local food businesses or arts and heritage facilities, to attract visitors, create employment and rejuvenate their villages.
Fiona Dempsie, Big Lottery Fund Head of Region for the South East said: “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 all strike at the heart of village life.
“Through this campaign, the Big Lottery Fund will help rural villages in the South East region to tackle these issues by bringing together support, information and expert advice on how to develop community enterprises, as well as the chance to get some Lottery funding to aid them.
“The current Village SOS TV series on the BBC has been following the journey of six villages, which have used Big Lottery Fund money to do just that. We want the campaign to harness the interest and inspiration that the show will generate to kick-start a rural revival.”
Central to Village SOS Active is villagesos.org.uk that will offer tools and information to help people bring their ideas for community businesses to life. It will also enable people to share advice and first hand experiences through an online community network where people can discuss ideas and share solutions to common issues.
Villagesos.org.uk will direct people to the best source of funding for their community business, including more details about the Village SOS Active competition.
The competition has £5m Lottery funding in awards of £10,000-£30,000 for the brightest ideas for new community enterprises that will make a lasting difference in rural communities with a population of less than 3,000.
BIG will also offer face-to-face advice to communities at a range of learning events across the UK, and a dedicated national advice line, run by rural community enterprise experts the Plunkett Foundation, where people can receive tailored advice on different aspects of setting up a community business.