LOCAL community group Friends of the Wesley Otley Limited (FOTWOL) are getting closer to achieving their goal of buying the Otley Methodist Church and transforming it into a community hub called the Otley Common.

Their ambition is to bring the town together by providing accessible spaces for community groups to meet and thrive, studios and co-working space for local businesses and entrepreneurs, a dedicated youth space designed to cater for neurodiversity, and a venue for the arts.

Following on from their success of receiving £300k from the Community Ownership Fund, the group are now almost ready to launch their community share offer. This will give local people the chance to invest in the project by purchasing shares. This method of ownership means the whole community will benefit not only from having a world class facility on their doorstep, but they will also receive interest on their investment.

Money raised from the share offer will go towards the purchase and renovation of the building.

The share offer was given a boost last week when the group’s plans were awarded the Community Shares Standard Mark. This ensures that community share offers are clear, honest and transparent, and ensure that investors are presented with all the facts they need to make an informed decision and these facts are supported by annual accounts and/or the business plan.

These kind of share offers are becoming an increasingly popular way for communities to take ownership of key assets in their neighbourhoods. In 2018, for example, Headingly Development Trust raised over £480,000 to purchase a fruit and veg shop, a house that is now used for affordable rent, and also refinance their community hub, HEART. Earlier this year, the Y Twr group in Pwllheli, Wales, raised £500k in six weeks in order to buy a derelict hotel to turn into a community centre.

In order to make the share offer launch a success, the organising team will be hosting a series of events at the church and around the town and they’re looking for the community to really get involved in this.

They’re particularly looking for people with the following skills: Running events; social media promotion; web design; marketing; artists and musicians.

Even if you don’t think you have any of the above skills but would like to get involved in supporting the project, there are lots of volunteer opportunities. The group are particularly interested to involve young people over the summer holidays.

To volunteer or for more information, visit www.otleycommon.org or email hello@otleycommon.org