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Heritage cash for beacon projects and poor areas

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The Heritage Lottery Fund has decided to shake up its system of cash handouts. Instead of spreading all its grants equally throughout the country, the fund is setting aside £75 million per year, for the next three years, for larger 'beacon' schemes irrespective of their geography. It will also target poor areas as worthy recipients of lottery payouts.

The moves are detailed in a Strategic Plan that the fund laid before parliament last week. It was drawn up after consultees argued that sites and institutions of national significance are not spread evenly throughout the uk. Some galleries and museums in major cities and historic churches in rural areas have lost out due to the hlf's desire for 'equal' national coverage. To correct this the fund has decided to commit a quarter of its expected £300 million annual income from the national lottery over the period 1999-2002 to 'beacon projects' such as Stonehenge, the conservation of Hadrian's Wall or to preserving tracts of countryside it considers of 'national importance'.

These are projects where the grant is over £5 million but could be as much as £25 million. 'We don't believe money can be delivered according to population' said hlf chairman Dr Eric Anderson, 'heritage is where heritage is'.

Despite the shift, the hlf is also to introduce regional decision-taking committees in England, learning from the experience of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and will continue to pump half its income, £150 million a year, to grants below £1 million on a per capita basis. A contingency of £11 million will allow the fund to award additional money to regions which, in the past, have generated fewer successful applications.

The fund is also investigating how it can link its urban parks programme, concentrating on giving grants to parks in areas of high social deprivation, with the newly-formed lottery distributing body the New Opportunities Fund's quest towards providing new urban green spaces. nof has a direction to deliver a 'green spaces and sustainable communities' initiative by 2002.

The hlf's two other new initiatives are aimed at deploying funds to coalfields areas and creating educational schemes on the heritage for young people. The bulk of allocations, 28 per cent, will go to historic buildings, 24 per cent to museums and galleries, 22 per cent to land and countryside and the rest to libraries and archives, industrial, maritime and transport and revenue schemes.

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