Valleys Community Fund Celebrates First £4 million of investment!
Q. What do a family clothing business, a boxing club and eco-friendly camping huts have in common?
A. They have all benefitted from a grant from the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund – enabling them to grow and develop!
Over 200 local people came together this week at events in Croeserw and Cwmdare to celebrate the Fund’s first two years of activity – and the achievements of all the projects and businesses who have benefited from grant awards – now totalling more than £4 million.
The £1.8 million a year index linked Fund was established by European energy company Vattenfall as an important part of its commitment to the communities hosting the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm. It’s currently the largest such fund in the UK. The Fund is managed by an independent, locally accountable Community Interest Company, currently with a Board of six Directors.
The Fund has got off to a flying start – the 178 grants awarded have between them brought in a further £3.7 million in match funding, meaning that the total investment in Pen y Cymoedd communities in the upper Neath, Afan, Rhondda and Cynon Valleys, is close to £8 million so far.
Recipients are delighted. Just over a year ago, Danielle Davies set up innovative clothing company The Tired Mama Collection from her home in the Neath Valley - aimed at tired mums and dads….and their babies! The business quickly outgrew its attic space, and a Community Fund grant has enabled the purchase of a dedicated workshop and the recruitment of two local part-time members of staff on flexible hours. “Sales are booming”, says Danielle. “We can now sell to shops, and at baby shows and events, and we can hold stock, rather than make to order – reducing order fulfilment times and increasing direct sales to new customers. This has had a huge positive impact”.
Anita of Afan Vale Chocolates was able to purchase much needed production equipment – “this has resulted in our production capacity doubling and less wasted stock - and our customer base is expanding all the time” she said.
Based in the former Burberry Factory, the Play Yard is Valleys Kids’ exciting new social enterprise. The facility includes a large children’s indoor play space, indoor sports on two five-a-side pitches, a fitness studio and a café – “The project is going from strength to strength and has exceeded some of its original targets” says Manager Nathan Howells. “We thought that around six jobs would be created and there are already 16. The range of activities offered is expanding all the time.”
The Cynon Valley Museum Trust is also forging ahead. A Community Fund grant is supporting three key posts and covered some building redevelopment costs. The new meeting rooms are increasingly popular and are generating crucial income. “Visitor numbers are up from 60 a week in mid-2017 to more than 400 a week now, and shop sales are also increasing”, says Museum Manager Charlotte Morgan.
Patrick Delaney, Site Manager at Vattenfall’s Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm said: “We’re delighted to see the impact that our wind farm’s community investment is having – supporting projects and job creation across the Valleys. The fund’s success is rooted in the fact that it was developed by the community for the community – the ideas of local people are becoming a reality. With the continued work of the CIC, we look forward to seeing the fund continue to grow, develop and bring long terms benefits locally.”
The Community Fund is keen to talk to anyone who has an idea or plan for their business, their community or the whole Fund area that they are keen to put into action. “Just give us a call or drop us a line” says Executive Director Barbara Anglezarke. “We are happy to hear about and discuss your proposals no matter what stage they are at. Communities in the Fund area have so much energy and creativity – we can’t wait to see what happens next!”