A charity set up by the Prince of Wales has made an application for pounds 13m of lottery money to help disadvantaged children with their education, providing them with a network of quiet places to work, to mark the millennium.
The Prince's Trust has asked the Millennium Commission for the money to enable it to set up 160 study centres by the year 2000. These would allow children from poorer areas to be given extra tuition in a suitable setting.
The application follows a warning by Prince Charles last month that the millennium was at risk of collapsing into a meaningless party, devoid of spiritual significance. He urged the setting up of projects of lasting significance.
Tom Shebbeare, executive director of the Prince's Trust, said: "We have a serious problem of underachievement in our secondary schools. Thousands of young people fail to achieve in education because their home surroundings can't or don't provide the support needed to succeed."
According to the Trust, there is a "failure in motivation" among 40 per cent of secondary school pupils, many of whom caused trouble in the classroom. They would be given access to the centres, which would have state-of-the- art technology, to encourage them to study after school and in the holidays.
Another lottery distribution body, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, gave out pounds 11m in grants to 49 projects yesterday. A Victorian market hall in Belfast, which received pounds 2m, was the biggest beneficiary.
St George's Market is the only significant surviving 19th-century building in the area. It will be restored to secure its future as a live market, which already attracts 5,000 customers a week.
Among the other applicants which received grants of more than pounds 1m was Britain's oldest surviving public library, Cheetham's in Manchester, which was awarded pounds 1.8m. The money will be used to restore the 17th-century interior, including unstable bookcases, dating from 1650.
One of the most historic buildings at Kew Gardens in London, Museum One, received pounds 1.4m. It was opened in 1857 to display collections showing mankind's dependence on plants, but was closed nine years ago because of its poor state.
When the museum is reopened, the public will once again be able to see the collections, including tools and ornaments made from plant material, and examples of food, clothing and medicine going back to prehistoric times.
John Lavin, director of operations at Kew, said: "It is intended to reinstate many of the finest and most interesting parts of the collection in the museum, in a way which will show how the survival of mankind depends on the survival of the enormous diversity of plants on Earth."
In Wales, where many have criticised the lottery bodies for distributing too much money in England, pounds 1m was given to buy a hill, Moel Findeg in Clwyd, which was threatened by proposals for sandstone extraction. Instead it will be turned into a nature reserve.
A grant was also given to a collection of musical instruments for the first time, with an award of pounds 250,000 to enable a museum in Forest Hill, London, to buy over 700 concertinas.