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Leeds share scheme hits £351,000 as deadline looms

Helen Seymour, HDT chairwoman, pictured at the monthly farmers' market
Helen Seymour, HDT chairwoman, pictured at the monthly farmers' market
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With just a few weeks to go, a unique community share scheme offering people the chance to invest in Headingley has reached over £351,000 - nearly three-quarters of its target.

Organisers at Headingley Development Trust (HDT) have praised the “power of people” who have so far pledged cash for its crowdfunding bid, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Otley Road in the centre of Headingley

Otley Road in the centre of Headingley

The money will be used to fund projects which improve Headingley for the entire community as well as offering investors a two per cent return on their money - more than most banks and building societies.

Trust chairwoman Helen Seymour said: “It’s been exciting and humbling to see how people are prepared to put in their own money to help make Headingley a better place for us all. To be over two thirds towards our admittedly quite ambitious target of £480,000 is fantastic. It just shows the power of people working together.”

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The trust plans on using the investment to re-finance its flagship enterprise and arts centre, HEART, which, while profitable, is currently being burdened by repayments on its original loan.

Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre (HEART), Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds.

Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre (HEART), Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds.

Money will also be invested in bringing empty buildings back into use as well as looking at housing options such as buying up homes in the currently student-heavy suburb, to rent out at low rates to long-term residents.

Over 140 people have invested so far with sums ranging from £200 to several thousands.

Helen said investors are mainly from the local area but some living outside the area had also been moved to pledge cash.

“It’s people wanting to get a little bit of return on their money but also the social return - the fact that their money is doing good for their neighbourhood.”

An initial deadline of the end of April has been extended for a few weeks to make sure all those who want to invest get the chance and Helen says she remains hopeful that the target will be reached.

“We’ve got enough to refinance HEART but if we are going to do so much more, we really do need the full amount.

“If we didn’t reach the target, we would have to scale back our plans a little and couldn’t so as much as we want to do. We would still be able to do some things but couldn’t be quite as ambitious as we would want to be.

“But there is so much to be done and people do know that - that’s why we have the investment we have. We are really pleased with the response we’ve had.”

She urged those who were deciding whether or not to invest, to “just do it”.

“It’s for the common good as well as personal good. It makes total sense. If you care about Headingley and the community, this is an absolute way of making that evident,” she said.

A drop-in information session for anyone interested in investing will be held on Saturday May 5 at HEART, on Bennett Road, from 10am to 11am.

For information and to invest, visit www.ethex.org.uk/HeadingleyDT.