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Lottery shake-up: regions to get bigger say on heritage cash

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An overhaul of the way the National Lottery funds conservation projects is to give more power to the regions

The new-look National Lottery Heritage Fund will allocate £800 million of its cash over the next five years via six committees spread throughout the UK.

All decisions made on awards of under £5 million will be made by these panels covering Scotland; Northern Ireland; Wales; the North of England; the Midlands & the East; and London & the South.

Only larger pots of cash – making up just 20 per cent of the Fund’s budget – will be dished out by the central board of trustees. Until now the threshold for national verdicts has been £2 million, making the board responsible for about half of all funding decisions.

Fresh offices will be created across the UK to support the new structure.

Chief executive Ros Kerslake said: ‘Over the next five years, the National Lottery Heritage Fund will inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage, distributing more than £1 billion.

‘We will be making more decisions on funding locally and focusing on the heritage that really matters to people, creating jobs, bringing economic prosperity and improving people’s lives right across the UK.’

Dan Anderson, tourist attraction expert at consultancy Fourth Street, said the devolution was ‘a big deal’ and marked a genuine attempt to engage local communities.

‘To date, any substantial capital project had to slug it out in a competitive pool that included all the heavyweight applicants like The British Museum and The V&A,’ he said.

‘For heritage organisations, this is a strong incentive to keep applications below the new £5 million threshold and thus to focus on smaller capital projects.’

The National Lottery Heritage Fund set itself six objectives for the next five years, pledging to:

  • continue to bring heritage into better condition
  • inspire people to value heritage more
  • ensure that heritage is inclusive
  • support the organisations it funds to be more robust, enterprising and forward-looking
  • demonstrate how heritage helps people and places to thrive
  • grow the contribution that heritage makes to the UK economy

It promised simpler application forms, processes and requirements for small grants, and announced plans to raise the upper limit for single-round awards from £100,000 to £250,000.

The body also declared that all heritage projects would have to demonstrate that they were good for the environment before being supported.

Meanwhile 13 priority areas have been identified that have received least funding in the past and experience deprivation. 

These are: Brent (Greater London); Corby (Northamptonshire); Enfield (Greater London); Knowsley (Merseyside); Inverclyde (Scotland); Luton (Bedfordshire); Newham (Greater London); North East Lincolnshire; North Lanarkshire (Scotland); Neath Port Talbot (Wales); Rhondda Cynon Taff (Wales); Tendring (Essex); and Walsall (West Midlands).

’Our local teams will work strategically with stakeholders, from within heritage and beyond, to identify the best way to support organisations to meet local needs [in these areas],’ said the report.

Anderson said the five-year plan could bring about meaningful change in how conservation projects are set up.

’These strategic [rethinks] come along every five years and they usually tinker at the edges of a system that has remained mostly unchanged since the fund was established in 1994,’ he said. ’This one is different.

’This is the work of an organisation that seems more comfortable with the de facto leadership role that it has inherited as the sector’s principal funder. It is shaping an incentive structure which could propel the whole heritage sector into having a more relevant and contemporary role in the modern economy.

’Heritage minister Michael Ellis said National Lottery players had funded thousands of projects to protect and celebrate the country’s ‘diverse landscapes, traditional crafts, and buildings.

’This change by the National Lottery Heritage Fund will give heritage experts in the UK more power to care for the heritage that means the most to local people, and ensure it is protected for future generations.’

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