Story of how to get funding to build a skatepark in the UK

This is the story of how the Action Sports Nomad raised over £170,000 for his local skatepark project in Alton over 2018/2019/2020. Hopefully it will spur you on to get involved and fundraise for your own local skatepark too.

Part 1: Lucky Timing

Alton skatepark last had a refurb in 1997 as far as I can remember, but other than a few re-spray jobs and a new grind box it hasn’t had much love in the last 20+ years. Then someone stole my favourite feature, the shotgun rail…so the story goes anyway, who knows what actually happened to it, all I heard was that it ended up in a hedge somewhere and now all that remains are 3 concrete squares in the ground where it once proudly stood.

In May 2018 I decided to ring up Alton Town Council and ask if the rail could be replaced, surely it couldn’t cost more than a couple hundred quid, right? Well, I was in for a shock.

It turns out I’d called at just the right time. Alton Town Council were about to start the process of completely redeveloping the existing skatepark, using contributions from all the housing developments spreading like wildfire across the area. I asked to be involved in the project and was duly invited to the initial meeting in August 2018.

Part 2: Where do you even start on a project like this?

The upshot of that initial council meeting was that whilst we had £100,000 of developer contributions as a base, realistically we needed at least £150,000 to do justice to the space available. That was the opinion of the straight-talking Maverick Skatepark Designer (and fellow skater) Ian Jennings, who had travelled 3 hours by car to help guide us through the first phase of the project. We wholeheartedly agreed with him!

It was also great to see a wide cross-section of skatepark users of all ages at the meeting, even if there were only 5 of us (2 skaters, 2 scooter riders and a BMX’er). It at least demonstrated to the Council that local riders cared enough to show up and get involved.

Councillor John Coney who chaired the meeting (and who incidentally used to skate back in the 70’s: legend) gave us the other good news that Alton Town Council was willing to contribute an additional £25,000 with a further £1,000 from the Hampshire Playing Fields Association. This meant a final base total of £126,000, a pretty decent starting point let’s be fair!

John also explained however that unfortunately the Council simply didn’t have the resources to spend hours researching grants and other forms of funding to help raise the remaining £24,000. This task would be for the skatepark users to deal with, and deal with it we did! (Read on for more specific details).

Following the financial chat us ‘skatepark users’ sat down with Ian from Maverick to talk about the kind of layout we wanted in the new concrete park; but with 2 skaters, 2 scooter riders and a BMX’er, this wasn’t a straight-forward discussion, as you can imagine!

Part 3: Research, Research, Research…

September 2018: Now began the serious grunt work. John Coney kindly provided me with a list of potential funds and grants that he thought might be worth looking into. Here’s the list including the outcome of my research, investigations and applications; this list will be of particular use to you if you’re currently researching funding in the Hampshire/Surrey area since it took weeks to find out these specific details.

  • The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Communities Foundation (HIWCF): I went as far as filling out and submitting a complete application form for this grant (which included specific financial documents I had to ask the Council for). March 2019: our application was unsuccessful
  • The Sainsbury Family Trust: Online information was sparse and when I called to speak to someone I was told that they only accept applications in writing sent via post; one page being a background of the project and one page being a written financial outline. That’s one way to limit applications in the digital age I suppose.
  • Bernard Sunley Foundation: They don’t offer grants to councils.
  • The Thompson Charitable Trust: They only offer grants to registered charities.
  • PF Charitable Trust: They only offer grants to registered charities.
  • The Hobson Charity: They only offer grants to registered charities.
  • The ASDA Foundation: Online information was confusing but eventually I understood that you need to contact your local ASDA store and speak to the ‘Community Champion’. Goodness knows how many times I tried to call ‘Linda’ at the Basingstoke ASDA store…but she was never there…
  • Tesco Bags of Help: Alton Town Council made this application, unfortunately we were unsuccessful.
  • Waitrose: Alton Town Council made this application and Waitrose were kind enough to contribute £300 towards our project, every little helps.
  • WH Smith: I submitted an application for this grant, our application was unsuccessful.
  • The Gannett Foundation: They only offer grants to registered charities.
  • Leeds Building Society Foundation: They only offer grants to registered charities.
  • Persimmon Community Champions: I submitted an application, our application was unsuccessful.
  • Astor Foundation: They only offer grants to registered charities.
  • National Lottery Community Fund: Boom! Our biggest success with a grant of £96,500! But it’s not as easy as just filling in an application form. For starters you’ll need to call or email them so that a specific member of their team can be chosen to manage your inquiries; and then they don’t just send you an application form, you’ll need to demonstrate patience and determination to answer the steady flow of questions before it’s determined that your project is at the right stage in the overall process to even consider filling out the multiple forms. It’s a bit of a slog, but their team is great and there’s every chance you’ll be successful if you can put in the time and effort to provide the tonne of detail required.
  • Wessex Youth Trust: They weren’t accepting applications at the time I inquired.
  • Garfield Weston Foundation: They only offer grants to registered charities.
  • Truemark Trust: They only offer grants to registered charities
  • WREN Resources: Our project was not within 10 miles of one of their sites
  • BIFFA: Local authorities may not make applications
  • Veolia Environmental: Boom! Our second biggest success with a grant of £75,000! Veolia were a bit more straightforward in that you have to submit an online proposal first, once that is successful you can then fill out the Stage 1 application form which is reviewed at one of their pre-planned dates during the year. Once successful you are then invited to fill in the Stage 2 application form which is also reviewed at a certain time of year, so you need to fit into their financial year. Don’t be fooled by the simple sounding task of ‘filling in an application form’ though; these are hefty forms and they required input from various people at Alton Town Council (including the Mayor), access to the council’s financial data, and also input from the team at Maverick Skateparks with incredibly specific information. It’s no simple task, believe me.

Well done for getting this far! If you’ve persisted with reading through that list then you’ve probably got what it takes to do the work required to make funding applications. No joke. Patience and determination are key!

But there’s more: If you thought that was tiresome then I’ll dispense with going through the list of Hampshire’s biggest 130 employers! Literally I just did a Google search of ‘hampshire’s biggest employers’ and downloaded a handy spreadsheet. It then took several months of back and forth, pouring over company websites and emailing HR teams and ‘Corporate Social Responsibility Officers’ (and twenty different variations of that title), sending a generic email at first asking them to consider the project for funding as part of their corporate social responsibility scheme, then following up with more targeted chaser emails.

Part 4: Writing blogs, getting the message out there and having patience

I already had the Action Sports Nomad website setup so I thought why not kick off with with a blog about how badly Alton needed a new skatepark to drum up some attention.

In addition to the blog I also started a Facebook group called Alton gets a new Skate Park 2019/2020 – What features do you want? to make sure we were letting people have their say and spread the message, but also to help prove to potential financial grants and donors that we were involving the entire community.

The two scooter riders in our group, Harry and Tom, even designed a logo to help promote the new skatepark funding plans.

In the meantime, I was busy researching and filling out a tonne of online funding forms and things seemed to move pretty quickly for a time. The Council invited me in to help score the official Tenders that came in from skatepark companies and we received an official stage 1 skatepark design from Maverick.

After waiting a couple of months for the council to finish the Tender process, Maverick were chosen as the official skatepark construction company, and since we also had an official skatepark layout it meant it was time to release the next blog in November 2018 to keep the momentum going. Needless to say these were shared across multiple social media platforms.

Even during the quiet time in the run up to Christmas the council still needed to go through all the red tape when spending public funds which meant a period of ‘public consultations‘. Between skatepark users and council staff we spent a couple of very cold December 2018 afternoons at the skatepark with leaflets and ‘Action Sports Alton’ t-shirts, and a weekend running a booth at Alton’s Yuletide Festival with posters of the skatepark plans, answering any questions the general public had about the proposal.

Then time for patience as things died down a little, there’s not much you can do during these times except wait it out and keep your fingers crossed.

Finally in March 2019 after 3 months of waiting, we had the first major win for the project; Veolia Environmental approved the £75,000 grant!

With that massive win under our belts we then had a couple more council meetings with everyone present, to further discuss the plans for the new skatepark layout following the public consultations.

It took some doing between 2 skateboarders, 2 scooterers, a BMX’er and loads of online suggestions, but thankfully Maverick were there to point us in the right direction. Their overall advice was sound: ‘don’t try and do too much with one space otherwise you’ll end up with a park that doesn’t flow for anyone’. So with our skatepark layout discussions complete, off they went to prepare a redesigned visual.

Early April 2019 and we had our next major win; The National Lottery approved our £96,000 funding! Apparently this was the first time TNL had ever approved such large funding for one specific skatepark project = massive win!

Part 5: Dark clouds and Silver linings

And then the reality of bureaucratic red tape and planning permission kicked in…

Whilst the first half of 2019 was a rollercoaster of funding approvals and updated skatepark designs, unfortunately summer and autumn saw frustrating delays. Thankfully the council have now been able to fight through some rather stodgy planning permission issues and that element is sorted.

Huge thanks also go to the team at Maverick who have been working all hours on the truly epic multi-story skatepark project at Folkstone 51 in almost constant rain. Despite this and a with break-in at a build in Penarth, they are still somehow on track to finish that project this November; meaning that the Alton project is next on the agenda!!

Spring/Summer 2020 is gonna be a whopper for the Alton Skate Community!

Finally: The Skateparks Project

Through my journey raising funds for the park I was lucky enough to make contact with the folks at The Skateparks Project; they provide free, impartial advice to communities and councils in the UK looking to build new skatepark facilities and they’re also officially partnered with Skateboard England.

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