Encouraging people to come together to make their communities better places to live and work is an important part of my role as your local MP.
In recent weeks I have seen – and supported – many examples of towns and villages in our part of Yorkshire doing just that.
The Government is doing its bit too – in providing the funding to make your good ideas become a reality.
Like the Countryman’s Inn, at Hunton, between Leyburn and Bedale where the villagers were determined to retain their pub as the community hub and successfully bought it – with the help of a £230,000 grant from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund (COF).
During my recent visit to the Countryman to congratulate members of the community pub society on the purchase, it was fantastic to see how this plan had brought Hunton together in a common cause and hear of their ideas not just to retain the inn for everyone’s benefit but to develop it further.
In my role as constituency MP I was delighted to support the pub’s successful application to COF which matched the money it had already raised in the local community.
The Community Ownership Fund is just one part of the Government’s levelling up mission. It runs for a four-year period up to 2025 so there is plenty of opportunity for similar initiatives to come forward.
Remember, it is not just about pubs. The fund can assist groups to purchase and renovate a range of assets at risk of being lost – from sporting and leisure facilities to cultural and heritage buildings.
Expressions of interest in the fund – which will give you an idea quickly about whether your project could be eligible – can be made at any time.
Another community I’ve seen working on a similar initiative is Hudswell, near Richmond, which has enterprising plans to find a new life for the village’s redundant church.
The Hudswell Community Charity wants to convert St Michael’s and All Angels into a hostel for walkers and cyclists.
I visited the church last year and met the team which needs to raise more than £1m to convert the building. It’s another great idea, not only in sustaining the church building but by boosting local tourism and providing employment.
The church is not far from the Coast to Coast Walk – which regular readers will know I have championed as a new National Trail – so it would be an ideal location for additional walkers’ accommodation as the trail becomes ever-more popular.
The charity has a robust business plan in place and I, again with my local MP hat on, am backing its application to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – another element of the Government’s levelling-up work.
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the related Rural Prosperity Fund are designed to replace money previously available under the EU-designed scheme to support regions. Both funds are tailored for the UK and less bureaucratic.
The Hudswell charity has also launched a crowdfunding campaign to help reach its fundraising total. More details about the campaign and the project can be found at www.daleshostel.com.
You’ll be hearing more about bidding for these funds later this month when North Yorkshire County Council – which administers these funds locally - will be inviting expressions of interest.
Before then you can find out more about them – and the Community Ownership Fund – at www. gov.uk.