Lottery fund to spend £14m improving town centres

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The Independent Online

Almost £14 million has been earmarked to help regenerate town centres across the UK which are rundown or suffering from neglect, the Heritage Lottery Fund said today.

Areas set to benefit range from Whitechapel Market in London to once-thriving ports and industrial towns where buildings have fallen into disrepair and their historic features are at risk.

Efforts to boost the 11 town centres will include restoring traditional shop fronts, buildings and key architectural features, holding community events and providing training in traditional building and heritage conservation skills.

Carole Souter, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), said: "This investment will help support local authorities and residents to transform their towns, making essential improvements and repairs that will encourage local businesses and visitors back into these historically vibrant areas."

The funding has been initially set aside for the schemes, which must now submit a further, fully-developed application to secure the award.

The investment is part of the HLF's Townscape Heritage Initiative, which has put almost £200 million since 1998 into regenerating towns.

Wayne Hemingway, chairman of Building for Life which sets national standards for well-designed homes and neighbourhoods, said: "Investment like this is hugely important, not only to look after the precious older buildings but also to improve people's quality of life.

"Investment like this makes a real difference by giving residents a better place to live and getting the local economy moving.

"For the liveability of our towns and cities, it's vital to create urban landscapes that provide something for everyone, places to relax, meet people, a home, a business or even new training opportunities, and the Heritage Lottery Fund's continued support helps this become a reality."

The 11 areas where funding has been earmarked are:

:: Whitechapel Market High Street, London - £1,387,500 to restore traditional shop fronts and bring under-occupied buildings back into use in the market which dates back to the 17th century.

The initiative, as part of a wider £10 million regeneration scheme by Tower Hamlets council, aims to provide community art and heritage events in the area.

:: Pontmorlais, Merthyr Tydfil - £1,637,500 to reverse the poor condition of historical buildings in the High Street, which was created between 1770 and 1820, and find new uses for them.

Links with Merthyr Tydfil College also aim to provide conservation skills training to students, local businesses and residents.

:: Cefn Mawr, Wrexham - £870,600 to rejuvenate the commercial centre of the town, while training programmes will give the local community opportunities to learn heritage skills.

:: Middleton, Greater Manchester - £2,085,200 to repair key buildings and architectural features in the town, which contains buildings designed by renowned arts and crafts architect Edgar Wood, as well as creating an architecture trail and a conservation skills training scheme.

:: Bedford - £850,000 to preserve the "at risk" High Street conservation area, which dates back to late Saxon times and is made up of mainly 18th and 19th century buildings.

The scheme will bring rundown living spaces above shops back into use, refurbish shop fronts and buildings, and create community activities including guided walks and archaeology events.

:: Wellingborough, Northamptonshire - £1,475,100 to regenerate the centre of the town which began as a small market town in Saxon times.

Buildings set to benefit include a 1645 coaching inn, the Grade II* listed Golden Hind hotel and the former club house of the Royal Antediluvian Order of the Buffaloes.

:: Stockton, Cleveland - £1,784,900 to reinstate historic features of existing buildings in the town, bring unoccupied buildings back into use and provide volunteers with opportunities to learn traditional building skills and take up work placements.

:: Portaferry, County Down - £1,282,700 to enhance the historic character of the town which was once a thriving port, and provide opportunities for employment, education and training in traditional building skills.

:: Anstruther, Fife - £945,000 to restore buildings in the town's Outstanding Conservation Area, including St Nicholas Tower, Hew Scott Hall and Wester Anstruther Town Hall - all of which require substantial structural work.

:: Camborne, Roskear and Tuckingmill, Cornwall - £520,000 for repairing architectural detail on the town's most historic buildings, provide work experience to local college students and a monitored energy saving scheme.

:: Lower Kirkgate, Leeds - £1,051,800 to carry out extensive repairs to heritage buildings, reinstate lost architectural features and refurbish vacant buildings in the oldest street in the city.