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Heritage projects face 'catastrophe' due to Olympics cash drain

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The Olympic-fund drain could have a catastrophic effect on major heritage projects, especially in the North of England, it has been claimed in the House of Lords.

Yesterday the upper house warned of the dangers of the continued siphoning off of cash to finance the 2012 Games, in particular from sources such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the possibilities of serious delays to building schemes of all sizes.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester said: 'As far as the North of England in particular is concerned, there is likely to be a five or six-year hiatus on major heritage projects.

'No one is saying that all this good work will come to a juddering halt because of the diversion of Lottery money to pay for the Olympics, but it is undoubtedly the case that projects will have to be scaled back at least until 2012.'

According to Lord Baker of Dorking, the money available to project-funding organisations under the Heritage Link banner is expected to be reduced from £255 million to £120 million.

Among the projects under threat would be '1,400 schemes for churches and historic town centres from Gateshead to Great Yarmouth'.

Lord Baker said:'If the money is cut from £255 million to £120 million, there will be lots of nos in future to landscape and other projects.'

Lord Baker called on Prime-Minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown to promise 'not to take any more' money from the Lottery adding: 'At the end of the day, societies and civilisations are remembered not for their athletics but for their aesthetics. They are remembered for their painting, their music, their drama, their poetry, their architecture and their landscape.'

by Richard Waite

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