Northern Ireland: Committee decisions March 2019

Minutes of the meeting of the Committee for Northern Ireland held on 5 March 2019 at 10.00a.m. in the Boardroom, Clifton House, 2 North Queen Street, Belfast, Antrim BT15 1ES

Members:    

  • Anna Carragher (Chair)
  • Jacqueline Irwin
  • Jodie Jackson
  • Sheila McClelland (in the Chair for item 13 and 14)
  • Jim McGreevy
  • Mukesh Sharma

Apologies:

  • Angelina Fusco

1. Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed all attendees to the first meeting of the Committee under the auspices of the rebranded organisation: National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Angelino Fusco had sent apologies for the meeting.

The Chair reported that Tony McCusker had resigned from the Committee.  She observed that his valued contributions to the work of the Committee and the Northern Ireland team would be missed.  Since three rather than two new members had been appointed during the last member recruitment round Mr McCusker’s resignation had not created a vacancy on the Committee.  Consideration would be given to the skills which would need to be sought in the next recruitment round.

2. Minutes of the meeting on 4 December 2019

The minutes were agreed as a true record of the meeting.  The minutes were circulated to the Chair after the meeting for signing.

3. Matters arising from the minutes

There were none.

4. Chair’s Report

The Chair updated the Committee on her activities since the last meeting and noted that she had attended the following:

  • the Round 2 site visit meeting at Castlewellan
  • the launch of the Fund’s Strategic Framework 5 (SF5) with Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, at Duncairn Arts Centre
  • the launch of the Culcagh to Cleenish Great Place project in Fermanagh
  • a site visit for the Heart of Ancient Ulster second round application
  • 1:1 meetings with committee members to undertake annual reviews.

Members provided updates of a number of events and launches they had attended since the last Committee meeting.

5. Corporate Update

Sue Bowers, Deputy Director of Operations, presented the corporate update.  In a brief update on the implementation of the new Strategic Funding Framework (SFF), the Committee was informed that:

  • the launches of the Strategic Funding Framework were going well
  • a number of project enquiries had been received but early indications showed a slower start compared to earlier strategic framework transitions
  • the membership of the three interim England Area Committees (Northern, Midlands & the East, London & South) had been confirmed.  Each Committee would comprise ten members: Chair, two deputies, a Trustee and six other members.  The Area Committees would replace the nine English regional committees from 1 April 2019.  All committee members would receive training in May 2019
  • the reorganisation of the Fund’s structure was in the process of implementation.  The next stage, following the appointment of the three Area Directors, was the appointment of Heads of Investment and Heads of Engagement
  • the London office would move from Holbein Place to St Katherine’s Dock in June 2019.

Northern Ireland Overview Report

Paul Mullan, Head of Country, introduced the report.  The Committee noted that the team were undertaking a lot of briefings to inform people about SFF.  Further top line information was awaited so that the team could respond fully to detailed questions of clarification.  Early indications showed that new applications under SFF would be slow to ‘come on stream’ and so a strategic approach to budgetary expenditure would be required.

The Committee was informed that the move to new offices had gone well, but the size of the new office was presenting some challenges particularly when the whole team was in for team meetings.  Members commented on the different challenges remote working would bring such as ensuring there continued to be opportunities for collective conversations.

7. Northern Ireland Budget

Stella Byrne, Casework Manager, presented the report.

One second round Grants for Places of Worship application and one second round Heritage Grant application were to be determined at this meeting.

The Committee noted that the remaining budget was insufficient to fund all the small grant applications to be considered at the last batch meeting for the 2018-2019 financial year.

8. Declarations of Interest

Members declared interests in the following applications which were deemed conflicting and the members would not remain present for the case discussions or subsequent prioritisation:

Item 13 – Heritage takes Centre Stage at Northern Ireland’s Grand Opera House – HG-17-03472

  • Anna Carragher had a conflict as the former Chair of the Grand Opera House Trust and a Board member of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland who were a funder of the Opera House.

Members declared interests in the applications listed below which were noted but it was not deemed necessary for them to step out of the conversations or refrain from taking votes/decisions.

Item 10 - To repair the rain water damage to the spire and tower of the church, St John’s Parish, Newcastle; GP-16-09077

  • Anna Carragher mentioned that the home and gardens of a close relative abutted St Johns.  She confirmed they were not parishioners and she had no involvement with St Johns.

SF4 second round applications for discussion and decision

9. Restoring Florence Court’s Kitchen Garden to provide communities with experiences that move, teach, and inspire; HG-16-05017

Grantee: The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty

Request: Award Grant of £374,800 (67%)

Uplift: An uplift of £33,200 (10%) was sought.  Costs had increased by £87,055 due the Structural Survey identifying a need for stabilisation works to the wall which the new glasshouses would be fixed to.  The applicant had mitigated the increased cost by increasing their partnership funding contribution from £129,000 to £186,555 resulting in a reduction in the intervention rate from 72% to 67%.  The applicant had also underwritten any shortfall in partnership funding.

Project: To reinstate the walled Kitchen Garden at the Grade A listed Florence Court House, Co. Fermanagh to its 1930s incarnation and reconstruct its historic glasshouses.  The proposals would facilitate learning and engagement opportunities by providing a physical base for volunteering, training and community engagement within the context of the overall Florence Court vision.  The vision was to offer ‘the best experience of a sustainable Irish estate where stories, people and places come alive’.

The Committee for Northern Ireland awarded a first round pass of £384,600, including development grant of £43,000 (49%) in March 2017.

The Committee for Northern Ireland agreed that the project was a HIGH PRIORITY for support and AWARDED a grant of £374,800 (67%).

10. To repair the rain water damage to the spire and tower of the church, St John’s Parish, Newcastle; GP-16-09077

Grantee: St John’s Parish, Newcastle

Request: Award Grant of £81,200 (60%)

Project: To repair the church tower and spire of St John’s Parish Church, a Grade B2 listed heritage asset, in Newcastle to prevent further water ingress and ensure the future structural integrity of these elements.

The Committee for Northern Ireland awarded a first round pass of £122,200, including development grant of £10,200 (67%) in December 2017.  Since the first round project costs had decreased and the grantee had increased their matched funding contribution from £18,000 to £31,000.  Therefore, the grant sought had reduced from £112,000 (72%) to £81,200 (60%).

The Committee for Northern Ireland agreed that the project was a HIGH PRIORITY for support and AWARDED a grant of £81,200 (60%).

11. Prioritisation of Second Round items

The Committee were satisfied with the priorities given during the case by case discussions and awarded grants to St John’s Parish, Newcastle (item 10) and Restoring Florence Court’s Kitchen Garden to provide communities with experiences that move, teach, and inspire (item 9).

SF4 second round Board applications for discussion and recommendation

12. The Heart of Ancient Ulster; LP-16-00845

Grantee: Mid Ulster District Council

Request: Award grant of £2,002,300 (68%)

Project: To reconnect people to the existing rural peatland landscape and the former Neolithic archaeological of Mid Ulster, and deliver 24 projects aimed at addressing issues related to the built, natural and cultural heritage needs of this 441 km2 Landscape Partnership area.  The landscape had very low levels of light pollution and would provide an opportunity to create the first Dark Skies Reserve in Northern Ireland.  A training programme for 10 apprentices and outreach education and learning programmes in schools would also be delivered.

The Board awarded a first round pass of £2,087,399 including a development grant of £85,000 (74% of eligible development costs) in October 2016.  Since then, it had been discovered that the applicant’s first round submission had erroneously recorded the LP area as 144km2.

The Committee for Northern Ireland recommended the project to the Board as a HIGH PRIORITY (2 OF 2) for support.

13. Heritage take Centre Stage at Northern Ireland’s Grand Opera House; HG-17-03472

Anna Carragher left the room during the discussion of this item and Sheila McClelland took the Chair.

Grantee: Grand Opera House Trust

Request: Award grant of £4,557,300 (39%)

Project: To restore the Grade A listed Grand Opera House in Central Belfast and upgrade its functionality with a permanent exhibition sharing the story of the building.  Capital works would include cleaning the ceiling decorations and paintings, restoring the architectural houselights and fittings and improvements to accessibility.  An outreach programme targeting new audiences would also be delivered.  The project would tie-in with the 125th anniversary of the building in December 2020.

The Board awarded a first round pass of £4,800,000 including a development grant of £242,700 (53% of eligible development costs) in December 2017.  Project costs had increased by £994,621 due to further cost certainty arising from the development phase.  No uplift on the original grant request was sought.  The applicant had underwritten any partnership funding shortfall.

The Committee for Northern Ireland recommended the project to the Board as a HIGH PRIORITY (1 OF 2) for support.

14. Prioritisation of second round items

The Committee was satisfied with the priorities given in the case by case discussions.

The Committee considered that The Heart of Ancient Ulster and Heritage take Centre Stage at Northern Ireland’s Grand Opera House were both strong projects with completely different heritage strengths.  The Committee weighed the extraordinary potential of The Heart of Ancient Ulster to develop a unique landscape alongside Northern Ireland’s first Dark Skies reserve against the timetable set for the Grand Opera House project in order to meet the 125th anniversary of the Opera House and the strengths of that project (as detailed in section 13 above).

On balance, the Committee concluded that the Grand Opera House should go forward to the Board with a recommendation that it was the first of two high priority projects from Northern Ireland.  However, they re-emphasised the uniqueness of the Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the importance of The Heart of Ancient Ulster scheme which was recommended to the Board as the second of two high priority projects from Northern Ireland.

Papers for information

Anna Carragher took the Chair.

15. Communications Report

The Committee noted the report.

16. Any other business

Paul Mullan undertook to circulate potential dates for an away day in April.

There was no other business.

The next meeting will be held on 11 June 2019.