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Community share fund raises £476k to improve Leeds suburb

Richard Norton, Helen Seymour and Sarah Johal celebrate the money raised through a community share scheme.
Richard Norton, Helen Seymour and Sarah Johal celebrate the money raised through a community share scheme.

Celebrations are in order after a community share scheme raised nearly half a million pounds to help make Headingley a better place to live.

In just three months, people have invested more than £476,000 into The Headingley Investment Fund, set up to try and improve the suburb for the entire community.

Thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, the fund was officially launched at the end of February by the Headingley Development Trust. It closes today.

Trust chair Helen Seymour said: “A huge thank you to everyone who donated. This is a recognition of everybody’s commitment and loyalty to the area and their fellow community members.”

In 2007/8 the Trust ran a pioneering community shares offer to develop its flagship project, the Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre (HEART) - a thriving community business which operates in profit.

But HEART is now burdened by repayments made on its original loan and one of the main aims of the new investment fund is to be able to replace this loan on better terms.

Money from the fund will also be used to develop new community project ideas and business opportunities, and some will be invested in local housing, buying up homes in the currently student-heavy suburb, to rent out at low rates to long-term residents.

Ms Seymour said: “We hope that we can provide housing and bring back empty properties into use. People get very depressed seeing empty buildings in the middle of Headingley town centre, because they start to get vandalism and graffiti. We want to start to change that.”

Ms Seymour and fellow members of the Trust - Richard Norton, Mike Sells, Sarah Johal and Isobel Mills had been “plotting for over a year” to make the fund happen, ahead of its launch. She said: “We are really delighted. The response has been fantastic.”

A committee is now being set up to manage the fund.