Taking a Chance on Heritage

Written by: Tim Morris
Published on: 3 Dec 2013

Despite the recent doubling in price, in the current times of austerity more and more people are taking their chance by buying lottery tickets.  As a result the Heritage Lottery Fund announced its new strategy earlier in the year. Having been established for more than eighteen years, HLF have recently announced their new five year strategy which increases their investment in heritage projects to £375 million per year and announced a more diverse range of programmes. These programmes range from Parks for People, to Heritage Grants which are available for projects up to £10million and the new Heritage Enterprise programme which will give grants up to £5million. This is a very interesting programme in the current economic times designed to bring back traditional or creative and digital industries into heritage projects.  This is aimed particularly towards buildings which are designated to be ‘at risk’ or listed or in a conservation area. Often these are suffering from market failure as a result of being too reliant on one use or where the cost of repair and conversion to bring the asset back into a sustainable use is not viable.
These offer many opportunities for those looking at a career in regeneration, Whilst the process can be very demanding it can also be very rewarding as they require a combination of both  ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills. Another challenge is that every project is different and requires a unique blend of skills. However, one overriding principle is that HLF require their investment to be a once and for all sustainable resolution to a heritage problem.  So from a ‘hard’ side the development has to be robustly commercially viable and therefore may well require a stringent viability appraisal carried out by a Chartered Surveyor to prove the business case. Projects will require cost consultancy to establish repair and conversion costs, building surveyors to establish the extent of repairs and architects not only to carry out the design but also the conservation management plan. They also require a good understanding of planning legislation in regard to heritage. In terms of the ‘soft ‘ skills required, many projects will require an activity plan to demonstrate how people will learn about our heritage from the HLF investment together with potential skills and training opportunities. These can vary from providing opportunities for heritage skills training, to volunteering to opportunities for such organisations as the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Most of all these projects are about working with people, breaking down the traditional silo mentality and establishing common aims between parties who are not normally common bedfellows. More often than not, these projects require the ability to understand the needs of the public, private and voluntary sectors and an ability to establish the trust needed to get all three to work together. The projects need to be led by those with the vision and dedication to drive schemes through a multitude of potential barriers. They need to be led by project managers who have a broad understanding of conservation, heritage, learning and commercial skills.  If you are interested in such opportunities you can make a start by looking at the English Heritage Buildings at Risk survey, finding a building which is designated to be ‘at risk’. Getting hold of the owner and establishing the vision for a sustainable future.

Tim Morris is the Managing Director of Piece Regen, a specialist regeneration consultancy .