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Architectural Heritage Fund Annual Review 2019-20
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Objective 01
Generate and distribute increased levels of investment and funding to support the sustainable reuse of historic buildings.

This has been a record year for the AHF in terms of funding awards. We have invested £4m in grants across the UK and made 32 loan offers worth £6.3m. This was our first year of delivering the Transforming Places through Heritage programme (TPTH), our initiative targeting the regeneration of historic buildings on high streets and in town centres across England. Through this programme we have funded 48 charities and social enterprises across 46 different high street and town centre locations in England.

The awards include Transformational Project Grants for Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust for the Grade II-listed 170-175 High Street West Sunderland, a former Binns department store that will become a home to Pop Recs, a Sunderland based social enterprise. This project had been supported by a previous Project Development Grant, demonstrating the role our awards play in moving projects through the project development cycle. 

We allocated £600,000 of funding as part of the Transforming Places through Heritage programme to the Community Shares Booster, to be managed by Cooperatives UK. This will invest in Community Benefit Societies raising funds through community share issues for eligible schemes. The first award was to Marsden Grocery Community Benefit Society, to enable them to set up a community-owned grocery store within the town’s conservation area. 

Circus Eruption - St Luke’s Anglican Church Swansea, Wales
Circus Eruption - St Luke’s Anglican Church Swansea, Wales

We were very pleased to be awarded new funding of £767,000 from Historic Environment Scotland to continue our programme of grant funding and support. This will enable us to continue our model of investing in the early stages of projects and providing advice and guidance to organisations delivering heritage led regeneration projects across the country.

In Wales and Northern Ireland we received new funding awards during the year to enable us to continue our programmes in both countries. Funding from the Pilgrim Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, Cadw and Department for Communities Northern Ireland enabled us to continue to award grants for early-stage project development and to extend our Support Officer roles in both countries. In Wales, we were also able to award £120,000 in capital grants to Circus Eruption Swansea, Haverhub CIC Haverfordwest and Antur Waunfawr Caernarfon following further funding from Cadw. And in Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities agreed new funding of £500,000 for the Heritage Impact Fund, the AHF’s UK wide social investment fund for heritage-led regeneration projects.

Despite the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, we continued to award funding to projects. Many other funders have paused in giving out awards and are instead moving to emergency funding and this will have an impact on the projects we have been supporting this year. We continue to work alongside our partner funders in helping those we support navigate through the impacts the pandemic is having on the sector.

Objective 01 – Significant milestones from Annual Plan 2019/20

Deliver Year 1 of TPTH programme.
Milestones achieved
Targets for endowment and HIF lending met.

Lending targets exceeded
Agree new funding programmes for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Milestones achieved
Agree 3 year funding plan for non-high street assets in England.
Partially met. 1 year programme agreed, 50% of funding target achieved
Objective 02
Support community-led heritage regeneration by assisting charities and social enterprises to take ownership of, develop and sustain new uses for historic buildings.

We have continued to increase our support and funding to charities and social enterprises taking ownership of historic assets. With our assistance, assets like the Observer Building in Hastings have been taken into community ownership; the vision of White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures (WRNV) will help bring it back into sustainable use after 35 years of dereliction. WRNV’s purchase of the site and initial development was supported by a loan from the Heritage Impact Fund.

In Northern Ireland, Hearth HBT has been assisted with both advice and funding as they gear up their development of Riddel’s Warehouse – a magnificent example of industrial heritage in Belfast. Here, the proposal is to develop a range of cultural and workspace uses, ones that will enhance the unique and atmospheric spaces that are such features of the building. 

The AHF team has expanded significantly to provide more advice and support to charities and social enterprises developing projects – this remains a key part of AHF’s offer, particularly to organisations approaching heritage regeneration projects for the first time. Included within the expanded team are now Programme Officers and enhanced consultant support in England for the Transforming Places through Heritage programme. Additionally a new Support Officer in Scotland will help us provide more time for projects there.

We have also continued to nurture partnerships with key partners to assist us in delivering this strategic aim. One significant example is our partnership with the Social Investment Business, which is delivering the RePlan service. This is our new business support programme which is assisting organisations, particularly around their business and financial planning needs. We see the service growing in importance as the impact of COVID-19 ripples through the sector over the coming months and years.

Another new partnership was the creation of the William Grant Foundation Tailored Support Fund, which is designed to support innovative approaches to built heritage. Among the 14 projects funded this year were grants for emergency repairs to dangerous stonework at St Margaret’s Braemar, increasing accessibility at a series of venues, assisting with meanwhile uses for the Scottish Civic Trust’s Doors Open Day programme, and funding engineering and other studies for the Finnieston Crane and the steam slipway at Balloch.

Objective 02 – Significant milestones from Annual Plan 2019/20

Appoint new team and specialists in England and Scotland.
Milestones achieved
Appoint team to deliver capacity building support for the TPTH programme.
Lending targets exceeded
Launch RePlan and support 6 organisations through the service.

Partly achieved. RePlan launched but delay led to only one organisation being supported.
Objective 03
Increase the effectiveness and impact of the AHF, ensuring we continue to deliver value for funders and the organisations and projects we invest in.

We completed a number of internal policy reviews during the year, including a review of our Investment Policy. Our investment fund, which is managed by Rathbone Greenbank, was negatively affected by the turbulence in the stock market, although it recovered in value over the summer of 2020. The performance of the investment fund will be closely monitored over the coming year.

We developed the first draft of a new Environmental Policy for the organisation. This will guide how the organisation advises projects on sustainability and will provide a framework for environmental criteria informing how we make decisions. This work was interrupted during the initial phases of COVID-19 crisis but will be brought back into focus in the coming year. Along with other sector partners, we also signed a commitment to develop an action plan for how the organisation will help reduce future climate impacts both across the sector and within the organisation itself. 

Our disaster recovery plan was tested with the onset of COVID-19. The switch to 100% of staff home working was successful and the AHF team has worked incredibly hard to maintain an advice service and deliver funding decisions under the most challenging circumstances.

The organisation expanded significantly during the year, both in terms of the number of employees and the financial resources it manages. 

Objective 03 – Significant milestones from Annual Plan 2019/20

New organisational structure agreed and implemented.
Milestones achieved
Policy and procedure reviews.
Partially met. A number of reviews were delayed by onset of COVID-19
Objective 04
Promote the impact and benefits of community-led regeneration and ownership of historic buildings, to Government, communities and funder

To measure the delivery of our latest strategic aims, we have developed, for the first time, an evaluation strategy that draws together the main indicators the AHF will use to measure the impact of our activities and which are set out in the organisation’s logic model. The evaluation strategy also outlines how we will measure other programme level outcomes and the long-term impact of our funding and advice. Despite the organisation’s relatively small size, we are striving to achieve a more balanced, robust and transparent approach to impact measurement. This may mean measuring fewer things and accepting that we will not be able to measure all the outputs or outcomes of the projects we support. We are also keen to develop our methods and believe our evaluation approach will need to be routinely reviewed and updated, whilst ensuring we maintain a coherent approach over the lifetime of the strategy.

Related projects

Part of this will include more detailed evaluation of programme-level approaches. For example in England, the Heritage Development Trust pilots (these are organisations scaling up their delivery of heritage-led regeneration in four locations across England) have agreed a specific set of measures to help us understand the impact of the HDT model.

In Northern Ireland we have supported an innovative programme supporting community-led heritage redevelopment in small villages: the Village Catalyst programme was co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Department for Communities’ Historic Environment Division. We identified and supported the development of four projects for the pilot phase, now eligible for up to £200,000 in capital funding; they include co-working spaces, a training hotel for young adults with autism, a childcare facility, and new affordable housing. As the pilot concludes, we have commissioned research around potential for the programme’s expansion.

Objective 04 – Significant milestones from Annual Plan 2019/20

Publish new evaluation framework and impact report.

Partially met. New evaluation strategy agreed but publication delayed by COVID-19
Scotland evaluation published.
Milestones achieved
New project case studies published on website.
Partially met - 3 out of 10 published. More to be published in 2020

Our impact in Scotland

Our Historic Environment Scotland (HES) - funded grant programmes have met or exceeded all of the outcomes agreed for the three-year funding period 2017-2020.

Over the 3 years, early stage viability and development grant funding of over £1m to 110 different projects in Scotland has directly helped to secure over £4m of further funding.

We have supported a diverse range of projects within every region of Scotland (54% of development grants have been to projects in an Assisted Area or located in a decile of high deprivation; 43% of projects involve a building on the Scottish Buildings at Risk Register).

Client feedback on the quality and value of service received (advice, support in applying for grants, ongoing input to projects) is extremely positive (69% of clients rate our grant application process as helpful or very helpful; 87% rate our support and advice as helpful or very helpful).

AHF support and advice, funded by HES, continues to build the capacity of the sector to gain skills and knowledge to help find sustainable new uses for historic buildings (82% agree interacting with the AHF and gaining our support has raised their credibility with other funders).

Projects have an increasing focus on community enterprise and the positive environmental, economic and social impacts of historic building re-use (59% of offers are to projects involving community businesses; 34% of offers are to projects involving commercial partners).

AHF early stage development grants help to build a pipeline of good quality projects for later capital support by HES, Scottish Government’s Capital Regeneration Fund, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and others, as well as AHF loans.