Enterprising solutions for heritage at risk

Enterprising solutions for heritage at risk

Ashton Old Baths
As Historic England publishes its annual Heritage at Risk Register, HLF’s Head of Historic Environment Sara Crofts takes a look at how National Lottery funding is helping seemingly desperate, derelict buildings find a sustainable future.

Heritage at Risk is an annual snapshot of the health of England's historic environment. Each year I find it incredibly sad to see once vibrant buildings including historic houses, civic spaces, former factories and places of worship, joining the list of beleaguered heritage. 

While they are all much loved, the other thing these places often share is that their current uses are financially unviable or unsustainable in the longer term. Often it would cost more to fix them than the building would eventually be worth.

Finding financial viability

However, the publication of the Register isn’t all doom and gloom. Each year, a collection of buildings that once seemed destined to be lost forever find their way on to a path towards a sustainable future and off the list. 

In many cases National Lottery investment plays a key role but it is almost always thanks to local people’s enthusiasm and vision that local communities are able to find ways to make these buildings financially viable once again.

[quote]"Heritage at Risk is an annual snapshot of the health of England's historic environment."[/quote]

One to make it off the list this year is Ashton Old Baths in Tameside. A Grade II* listed Victorian baths in Greater Manchester, in 2015 the building was empty and derelict. Today, following more than £1.7million of National Lottery money it is a thriving creative business hub. 

The empty main pool area was placed at the centre of a vision to transform the building. Now, where swimmers used to practice their sport sits an innovative freestanding pod that provides an incredible office space for local start-ups. It stands testament to how thinking creatively about a building and its space has the potential to make it viable again. 

Heritage Enterprise is making a difference

The project was supported through HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme.  It is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that redevelopment is simply not commercially viable.  Grants of £100,000 to £5m bridge the financial gap, funding the vital repairs and conservation work needed to convert these vacant buildings into new, usable commercial spaces.

We launched it in 2013 and since then we have invested more than £100m and are seeing derelict buildings across the UK returning to life.  Just this week we announced £4m to help revive The Fellowship Inn in Bellingham, South London.

[quote]"[Heritage Enterprise] is most certainly giving some of these buildings the much needed leg up to help them find a viable, long-term solution."[/quote]

Built for returning First World War heroes and their families, today the pub is semi-derelict and situated in one of the most deprived areas in the UK.  Our investment will make it commercially sustainable and includes: a cinema; new live music venue for London; café; microbrewery; bakery; and artists’ studios.  The project is also creating 70 new jobs and 45 apprenticeships over the next 15 years in an area where 12% of 16 to 24-year-olds are in receipt of workless benefits. 

While funding isn’t the panacea for all our at-risk heritage, it is most certainly giving some of these buildings the much needed leg up to help them find a viable, long-term solution.

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