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£100m incentive for churches and cathedrals to think positive

21 June 2019


Milton Abbey, which benefited from HLF funding last year

Milton Abbey, which benefited from HLF funding last year

CHURCHES and cathedrals will be eligible to bid for a share of a £100-million pot of National Lottery funding for large-scale heritage projects over the next three years. But the grants are not aimed at restoration schemes only, but ideas that benefit their communities.

The chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Ros Kerslake, said that the grants of £5 million or more would go to bids that “demonstrate real ambition to deliver positive change within the communities they serve and put diversity and inclusion at the centre of their plans. We want to see striking initiatives that demonstrate genuine transformation for places and communities.”

The proposals will also need to demonstrate the contribution made by the National Lottery, including the possibility of naming rights similar to those of projects backed by private philanthropists or trusts. A spokeswoman for the fund said, however, that it did not mean that important religious sites would have to be renamed. “There certainly won’t be an ‘HLF Canterbury Cathedral’; but a development linked to it could include the name,” she said. “It would be up to the organisation to show how the link could be made.”

Ms Kerslake said: “An important element has to be about telling the story of the National Lottery, and reminding the people who buy tickets of the positive change they are bringing about in communities across the whole of the UK. We expect all applicants to have bold and creative proposals for how they will achieve this.”

In an effort to simplify the process and reduce application costs, the fund is asking bidders to submit an initial “Expression of interest”, which will allow the fund to give an early steer on whether they are likely to be successful. The grants will come from existing funds: £50 million has been allocated for next year, and a similar amount in 2022. The deadline for applications for the first round is 11 October.

Since the HLF was launched 25 years ago, nearly £2 billion has been given to 188 significant heritage projects, ranging from Stonehenge and Jodrell Bank to Bletchley Park and Sheffield Botanical Gardens. The last main awards were made in May 2017.

Ms Kerslake said: “It is no secret that demand for National Lottery funding for good causes far exceeds available funding, and we thought long and hard about whether we could continue to invest in such large-scale projects.

“When we consulted, it was clear to us that, if we stopped, it is unlikely that anyone else would be able to step in, and major, transformative heritage projects simply would not happen.” She said that the awards would focus on the fund’s current strategic priorities of landscape and nature, and heritage at risk.

A Church House spokesperson said: “We are happy to hear that this funding is being made available for heritage-led community projects. We hope that churches will be in a strong position to benefit, especially as they are a nationwide community resource, predominantly run by volunteers who give their time to care for some of England’s most beautiful and important buildings.”

For further information, visit: www.heritagefund.org.uk/funding/heritage-horizon-awards.

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