Churches and Wales win top share of lottery cash

Heritage and arts awards: Nearly pounds 40m given for projects ranging from pounds 4.9m for parkland to pounds 1,500 for a memorial tablet
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The Independent Online

The National Heritage Memorial Fund has given pounds 4.9m of lottery money for the National Trust to buy Croome Park near Worcester, one of the country's finest landscaped gardens. It was one of 56 projects that benefited from the pounds 13.7m worth of grants announced in Cardiff yesterday, many of which had a strong Welsh or ecclesiastical theme. A further pounds 25m was handed out to 76 projects by the Arts Council.

The grants ranged from the pounds 4.9m from the NHMF for the park and pounds 6m from the Arts Council for a National Glass Museum in Sunderland, to pounds 1,500 - the smallest the heritage fund has awarded so far - to St Andrew's church in Somerset for the restoration of a memorial tablet.

Despite its vocal opposition to the National Lottery, the Church of England stands to be one of the greatest recipients of lottery money. Bath Abbey, which receives 300,000 visitors a year, was given pounds 500,000 yesterday to clean the interior, and 18 grants were given to churches for bells, organs and rebuilding.

"I regard the introduction of the lottery as a fresh form of gambling, which slips us down the road of materialism a bit further," Prebendary Richard Askew, Rector of Bath Abbey, said. "But it exists and this is how the Government has decided to fund Britain's heritage. We who are the stewards of these buildings must face up to it and draw on funds so raised."

There was also a strong Welsh theme to the projects, which included a pounds 372,000 grant to the National Trust to buy Hafod Garregog, a 169-hectare estate including the 15th-century house of Owain Glyndwr, the last independent Prince of Wales.

The distributors of lottery money have been accused of concentrating funds in London and the South. Lord Rothschild, chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which handles the grants for the NHMF, said that he was anxious the fund should increase its Welsh spending, currently pounds 1.1m, although he said he was anxious not to create "theme-park Wales".

"Over time we wish to achieve a fair balance both geographically and by population," he said.

A pounds 300,000 grant goes to the National Gallery in Scotland buy a painting, the Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and Attendant Angels by Guilio Procaccini, which belonged to Charles I.

The HLF also published its annual report yesterday. So far it has given pounds 70m in grants: 26 per cent for land projects, 17 per cent for buildings, 24 per cent for museums and galleries, 19 per cent for manuscripts and archives and 13 per cent for industrial, maritime and transport.

Jack Cunningham, Labour's heritage spokesman, attacked the Government yesterday for taking too intrusive a role in the distribution of lottery money. In a letter to Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, he criticised plans to use funds to foster a direct relationship between schools and artistic centres for excellence.

"While I have proposed the idea of a "talent fund" from lottery proceeds ... I am concerned that ministers are becoming increasingly involved with the distribution of lottery proceeds towards specific projects of their own choice," Dr Cunningham said.