During the past year, the AHF made 14 loan offers totalling £3,474,788 and 201 grant offers totalling £5,442,826. This increase is largely the result of increased grant activity in Wales and Northern Ireland, alongside ongoing activity in England and Scotland. In Wales, we celebrated a successful first year of our new funding agreement with Cadw, which has increased the annual grants budget in the country from £45,000 to £334,000 and is now supporting smaller scale capital grants to support emergency works and the development of meanwhile uses. These small grants can be vital for organisations in helping to test the uptake of new services and to build momentum and public engagement with heritage regeneration projects. We are extremely grateful to Cadw, as well as the Pilgrim Trust and the Garfield Weston Foundation, whose partnership makes possible our Heritage Transformed in Wales programme.
In Northern Ireland, we continued to work across the country through our Heritage Transformed in Northern Ireland programme. A larger investment has also been made into Village Catalyst – a partnership with the Department for Communities, the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive – which has been recognised as a potential exemplar in delivering sustainable change for small communities. The scheme has now been expanded with a five-year commitment from partners, and the £120,000 in Viability and Project Development Grants was awarded to eleven projects seeking to develop into Village Catalyst projects. Through our Heritage Impact Fund (made possible by new investment from the Department for Communities) we offered a loan of £250,000 to the Market Development Association for their project to convert the former St Malachy’s Convent School, Belfast into a new community and heritage space.
The past year saw the culmination of our existing grant agreement with Historic Environment Scotland, and this has now been renewed for three years at the same level – a grant totalling over £1.3 million. This grant, our largest ever in Scotland, is the result of the strong contribution that early-stage AHF grants and loan support make to the maintenance of Scotland’s historic environment and the role that we play in building a pipeline for statutory capital funding. Additionally, the William Grant Foundation has renewed our funding at £107,000.
Finally, the year saw the last of our larger capital grants awarded to high streets projects in England through our Transforming Places through Heritage programme. A significant amount of work has gone into making the case for further funding for high street and town centre projects and in the next year we will be looking to announce a successor programme to Transforming Places. This will hopefully enable us to continue the vital work this scheme has helped to bring forward, but we also wish to address the gap in funding there is for heritage assets that are not on the high street or in town centres.