RURAL communities seeking to retain and improve their village halls have warmly welcomed a Government fund to help breath new life into ageing buildings.

Launching the £3m initiative, Rural Affairs Minister Lord Gardiner said village hall committees were being invited to apply for grants of up to £75,000 to better connect rural communities.

He said the funding could be used for refurbishment and alteration of buildings, from improvement works on existing facilities through to new meeting rooms.

Action with Communities in Rural England, which will assess grant applications, says village hall volunteers often struggle with red-tape and the demands of managing a community building.

The move follows North Yorkshire County Council providing each of its 72 members with an annual budget of £5,000 to respond to local needs, and in many cases the funding has been used for strengthening village hubs.

The authority’s executive member for stronger communities.

Councillor David Chance urged village hall committees to apply for the grants, saying they would offer an opportunity for communities to not only build resilience, but extend their uses for residents.

He said while village halls remained the “cement that tend to hold communities together”, it was clear a number of the buildings were struggling financially.

Rosemary Kind, chairman of the village hall committee in Tholthorpe, near Easingwold, said a successful application to the Government fund would drive forward a proposal to further secure the Victorian building’s future.

She said one idea included a £100,000 scheme to sympathetically extend the building and launch a volunteer-run coffee shop to create a space for villagers to meet up. The extra space could also attract new groups to hire out the hall, generating vital maintenance funds. Mrs Kind said: “Up until now we have been working on updating the village hall little by little. Seventy is about the maximum number of people we can get in the hall, so extending it would increase options. The biggest thing holding us back has been whether we could get enough money together.”

The grants will cover 20 per cent of the total costs of a project. To apply for a grant, visit