#Thankstoyou – Towns

If you walk into town, you have probably seen the empty and boarded up shops that are becoming an increasingly familiar sight.  But if you are a National Lottery player, you are taking an active part in reversing this economic downturn.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is a pool of money derived from a portion of your lottery ticket.  It funnels this money into projects which use heritage to connect with, empower and improve communities.  One of these projects is known as the Townscape Heritage Scheme.

The Townscape Heritage Scheme is a grant-giving programme, targeted at the repair and regeneration of the historic environment of towns and cities throughout the UK.  The aim is to fund sustainable conservation in historic urban areas by ensuring that repairs are made in keeping with the historic character of the place.  By this, new uses and new life could be brought back into areas which have lost their traditional economic base.  The highest priority is given to applications from towns of high social and economic deprivation, demonstrating the key role that historic buildings can play in urban renaissance.

Once a town has applied and been successful, an officer is usually appointed to help direct the money towards businesses in the form of grants.  They use this money to ensure that buildings which make up the special architectural character of historic urban areas are given the support needed to stay or become, viable businesses. The buildings at the top of the list are historic buildings, bringing derelict and under-used historic spaces back into everyday use.

However, this project is not just about making towns ‘look pretty.’  To qualify for a grant, it must be shown that the building being repaired will also benefit the people who live, work and shop in the area. For example, it might bring a vacant floor back into use or attract new businesses or tourists.  They might also repair or reinstate elements that have been lost to public view.

Following are the remarks made by the local officers for two such projects that we have been involved in; Boston Lincolnshire and Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Boston – Matthew Bentley, Conservation Project Manager for Heritage Lincolnshire

 What is the benefit of using National Lottery Heritage Fund money to improve Boston Town Centre?

Boston is a nationally significant historic town but doesn’t get enough direct investment to make the most of its amazing character and appearance.  Lottery funding gives a boost and incentive to get more direct investment in the town, thereby improving its character and encouraging a sense of pride in it.

What part of the project are you most looking forward to seeing?

Townscape Heritage projects are slow burners, where things happen over several years.  I am looking forward to taking stock at the end of the project to truly understand the impact that it has made to the town.  The whole project is worth £1.8million and that level of investment should make a startling change to the town.

Is there anything you would like to say to people playing the National Lottery?

If it wasn’t for people playing the Lottery, then these sort of projects and initiatives would not be able to take place.  By spending a bit of money, they are effectively investing in their own town.  That sort of contribution should not be overlooked, and the players should be celebrated as much as the projects they are funding.

Through the Townscape Heritage Scheme in Boston we are looking to deliver the same high standard of work that has been achieved the the Historic England funded Partnership Schemes in Conservation Areas. The amazing transformation to some of the buildings can be seen below.

Before pictures of several properties in Boston:

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And the Afters….

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Wisbech – Taleyna Fletcher, Wisbech Townscape Officer at Fenland District Council 

What is the benefit of using National Lottery Heritage Fund to improve Wisbech’s High Street?

Via the Wisbech High Street Project, the National Lottery Heritage Fund is offering property owners and long-term tenants the opportunity to apply for a generous grant of up to 65% towards repairs to their buildings.  The project has identified buildings which are listed or of local interest which would benefit most from the funding and is working closely with the owners/tenants to apply for a grant.  All repairs must be undertaken using traditional materials and approved craftsmen appropriate for the works.  In addition, the project is addressing two derelict sites to ensure that these ‘gaps’ in the High Street are replaced with permanent structures or community spaces.  The overall aim of the project is to ensure the historic character of the High Street is revived and to encourage enjoyment and confidence in the High Street again.

The benefit of using National Lottery Heritage Fund money is that it helps property owners and tenants to invest in their buildings at a time of uncertainty regarding the future of High Streets.  Many owners are reluctant to invest money into buildings not knowing if they will have a tenant or still be trading soon.  The grant helps with repairs to make the buildings look better and install confidence in shoppers and those who use their High Street.  With the cost of redeveloping the derelict sites, it is only with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant that redevelopment is a viable or affordable option.

What has been the best improvement that you have seen?

The larger improvement schemes are currently waiting to start – these will address the derelict gap sites and bring disused buildings back into use.   However, we have been able to award a grant to owner of a property which had been vacant for some time.  The improvements to the building enabled the owner to secure a new tenant with a 10-year lease.

Is there anything you would like to say to people who play the National Lottery?

There are several exciting and positive schemes that help to rejuvenate and celebrate historic buildings.  We all love old buildings and are sad to see them fall into disrepair but the difficult we face is that historic buildings require more expense and TLC that modern structures.  The grants that are available thanks to lottery players help to save, repair and celebrate our architectural heritage.  For that reason, we should be grateful for the support of lottery players.