Supporting community-run assets

How we can help

Community-run assets and owned assets like village halls, pubs and shops are at the heart of rural community life. They provide a vital hub for health and social activities, education and vital rural services to take place. Therefore, we feel it is of paramount importance to help these assets thrive.

Cambridgeshire ACRE provides advice and support to the existing trustees of these community-run assets. Similarly, we also assist individuals or groups considering how they might sustain or improve community ownership in their own communities.

Community buildings advice

We support management committees of community buildings by providing practical help and up-to-date guidance on all aspects of their role. 

Cambridgeshire ACRE has a wide range of templates, such as model hire agreements and governing documents, together with over 40 information sheets on topics such as health and safety, storage, licensing, accessibility, VAT and employment law. The majority of these documents are available to members at no additional charge from our online Members’ Network. All members are provided with access to this area. 

We also run training courses, hold several networking events a year (with presentations on topical issues and opportunities to liaise with fellow members across the county) and share up-to-date information and guidance in our regular newsletter. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have provided in-depth support to committees on coping with lockdown and reopening their facilities.

Our service is backed-up by a wide support network, including our umbrella organisation, ACRE (Action for Communities in Rural England) and nearly 40 village hall advisors across England. If we don’t know the answer to your question, we are always able to find someone else who does.

Online members' network

Imagine a place where you can tap into the experiences of hundreds of people and use them to support your own community activities. Our online members’ network aims to connect the members of Cambridgeshire ACRE so they can do exactly this.

It provides a safe space to give and receive peer support and to find tools and resources (like our Information Sheets) to help you deliver your community projects and activities, particularly around running community buildings.

All new members are invited to join the network and encouraged to log on frequently to see what’s happening and to read and take part in the conversations that members are having.

If you are a member and have forgotten how to log in, please get in touch and we can give you a quick demo.

Hallmark scheme

We support community buildings to achieve the Hallmark quality standard.

The Hallmark Scheme is a quality standard launched by ACRE in 2007 to give village halls a framework to help them assess how to improve the management of their buildings. It also offers recognition to those doing a great job.

It is carried out by trained peer visitors or by our buildings advisor using a checklist to identify areas that are run well and areas that need improvement.

Safeguarding

We work with village hall management committees to help them understand current legislation around safeguarding.

Our aim is to increase awareness of the importance of safeguarding and making sure that village halls and other community buildings are welcoming and safe places for all who use them.

Read our Safeguarding case study to see more about our latest work.

Charitable incorporated organisation transfer

If your unincorporated charitable trust is considering the benefits of incorporation, Cambridgeshire ACRE can assist.

The process can be costly and its complexity off-putting, however we offer advice on whether incorporation is right for your community building and, if it is, can offer low-cost support with the process. This includes the setting up your new Charitable Incorporated Organisation and transferring the assets of your existing charity to the new one.

Feasibility studies and new building design

We support communities looking to undertake feasibility studies concerning their existing facilities or when considering a new build.

Cambridgeshire ACRE can undertake a community consultation to help you understand what your community want and can call upon our architect associates to provide ideas on what’s possible in your space.

Additionally, when it comes to major refurbishment or building a new hall, external grant funding is almost always required. We can assist with locating and applying for funding for building projects.

Playing fields and play areas

Parks and green spaces are proven to help people stay physically and mentally well. As a result, they are an important tool to drive social cohesion, combat loneliness and build community spirit. Cambridgeshire ACRE can assist in answering queries regarding the running of community green spaces, playing fields and play areas.

For support with managing your community building call us on 01353 860850 or contact us

Featured projects

David Olney

Trustee

David completed an MBA at City University Business School, following an engineering first degree at Loughborough University. He has considerable defence acquisition experience culminating in his role as Chief Operating Officer at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation where he was responsible for delivering proposals on the management of the estate as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010.

Subsequently, David had been Managing Director within the Babcock International Group responsible for 4 businesses ranging from media and education to infrastructure both in the UK and Brazil. David is a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology as well as a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

David is a Non-Executive Director of WaND Consulting and a Trustee of Thedwastre Education Trust.

Annie Blair

Chairperson and Trustee

Annie became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2017 and took on the Chairperson role shortly afterwards. She has been a volunteer for community and parish organisations in the village of Folksworth and the surrounding area for over 30 years.

Professionally, she had a career in the financial and insurance sectors before changing vocation and training in the educational sector as an arts educator / practitioner working for both Anglian Ruskin University and Peterborough Regional College.

Kirsten Bennett

Chief Executive

Kirsten joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2000 and then quickly assumed the role of Chief Executive from 2001. She oversees the work of the charity and puts in place our plans and strategies for the future. Day-to-day, Kirsten develops our relationships with new partners, explores new opportunities and oversees all aspects of the charity’s work.

Before working at Cambridgeshire ACRE, Kirsten attended Writtle Agricultural College gaining a BSc in Agriculture and then completed a Masters in Countryside Recreation Management at Sheffield Hallam University.

Jenna Brame

Senior Rural Housing Enabler

Jenna joined the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2020. Her role involves leading our rural housing partnership, developing affordable schemes on rural exception sites.

Jenna has a BSc in Geography from University of East Anglia and prior to join the organisation worked as a Graduate Housing Strategy and Enabling Officer at West Suffolk Council. Since joining Cambridgeshire ACRE she has become an accredited Community Led Housing Advisor.

Alison Brown

Head of Business Services

Alison has been Head of Business Services at Cambridgeshire ACRE since 2007. Day-to-day Alison is involved in everything from developing new opportunities for Cambridgeshire ACRE, shaping the direction of existing projects, overseeing the delivery of advice and information to our members and working with our Board.

Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Alison worked in the private sector holding roles in executive support and facilities management. Alison has BSc in Sociology from University of Southampton. 

Rachael Brown

Senior Community Development Officer

Rachael became part of the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2006, initially running a gardening project and then moving to her current role as our Community Development Manager where she leads a number of our environmental projects and acts as one of our Warm Hubs Co-ordinators.

Rachael has a BSc in Horticulture from Bath University and, upon leaving there, put her skills to work in the private sector before becoming a primary school teacher for several years.

Lisa Chambers

Community Development Officer

Lisa became part of the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2015 taking on the role of Community Development Officer. The greater part of her week is spent providing expert support and advice to the County’s community-run buildings with the remainder being spent supporting our Warm Hubs in Winter project.

Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Lisa was the County Councillor and Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Suffolk County Council. 

Linda Watson

Finance Officer

Linda joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2005. Her role as Finance Officer sees her administer all the financial processes of Cambridgeshire ACRE, ensuring up-to-date and accurate financial information is available at all times.

Prior to joining the organisation, Linda spent over 20 years working within the charity and the commercial sector gaining wide-ranging financial administration experience.

David Gibbs

Trustee

Dave became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2017. In his professional life, he was a community development worker specialising in finance and external funding. Since moving to the Fens, Dave has taken on a number of parish clerk roles, as well as being a trustee of Newton Village Hall.

Sarah Severn CBE

Trustee

Sarah became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2023. In her professional life, Sarah worked at DEFRA, supporting Rt Hon Lord Benyon, the Minister for Rural Affairs. She led on rural policy and the government’s commitment to thriving rural communities.

She has a BA (Hons) from the University of East Anglia in Economic and Social History and Sociology; an MBA (Cranfield) and the APM-accredited Project Leadership Programme (Infrastructure and Projects Authority). Sarah was awarded her CBE in 2013 for services to public protection. 

Terry Jordan

Vice Chairperson and Trustee

Terry became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2011. Terry is currently the Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer for Wisbech Town Council in Fenland and has worked in local government in Cambridgeshire for more than 40 years. 

Terry is also a trustee of CP Learning Trust.

Julie Spence OBE CStJ QPM

President

Cambridgeshire ACRE’s current President is Julie Spence OBE QPM. In 2017, Julie was appointed by Her Late Majesty The Queen as the 37th Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, the Sovereign’s representative in the County.

Professionally, Julie trained as a teacher before joining the Police in 1978 and being appointed Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire in 2005. In the Queen’s 80th Birthday Honours, Julie was awarded an OBE for her management of complex and contentious organisational issues and leadership contribution. In 2008 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Anglia Ruskin University: then in the 2010 New Year’s Honours list she received the Queens Police Medal (QPM). In September 2010, after a 32 year career, she retired from policing.

Toby Frith

Digital Marketing Degree Apprentice

Toby joined the team in 2021. As our Digital Marketing Degree Apprentice, his role is to implement our digital marketing strategy  generating interest in our work and helping to build the organisation’s social presence.

From January 2022, Toby will be undertaking a Digital Marketing Degree at Anglia Ruskin University alongside working for Cambridgeshire ACRE.

Jessica Sellick BA (Hons), MSc, PhD

Trustee

Jessica joined the Board of Cambridgeshire ACRE in February 2022. In her professional life, Jessica works at Rose Regeneration where she undertakes projects on behalf of Government, Local Authorities, charities and community groups across the UK. She is also a senior research fellow at the National Centre for Rural Health and Care (NCRHC).

She is a Chartered Geographer accredited by the Royal Geographical Society; a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce); and a member of the Institute of Economic Development. In her spare time she sits on the board of a housing association that supports older and vulnerable people across Lincolnshire.

Ray Vidler

Treasurer and Trustee

Ray joined the Board of Cambridgeshire ACRE in February 2022. He has been a member of Weston Colville Parish Council, which he currently chairs, since 2008. He is a fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and holds an MBA.

He has enjoyed living in rural Cambridgeshire for over 35 years and is keen to be able to support an organisation that aims to sustain, support, and develop rural communities.

Prior to retirement, Ray was a general manager responsible for aspects of the operation of a large food company based at Histon, having previously been the site’s chief engineer. During his working life he gained lots of experience of managing large multi-million-pound projects and developed a good understanding of finance and human resource management.

Stephanie Baxter

Trustee

Stephanie joined the Board of Cambridgeshire ACRE in February 2022.

Stephanie is a strategic thinker, utilising housing policy to deliver social justice and poverty alleviation. She is passionate about community led housing and how this can enable local communities to be part of their own solutions. Stephanie has worked in rural local authorities for the past 16 years, with knowledge of planning and housing policy. She is a Trustee with her local foodbank and an active member of her local church.

Olivia Boult

New Life on the Old West Natural Heritage and Communities Officer

Olivia joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in January 2023. Working exclusively on the New Life on the Old West project, Olivia works to engage partners, communities and landowners and to create opportunities for local people to connect with the diverse Fenland natural landscape.


Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Olivia worked in publishing, most recently for Cambridge University Press on their Life Science and Medicine book lists. She has a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge.