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£4.2m Innovative Village Catalyst programme launched at Caledon Woolstore

18 February 2022
Northern Ireland

DAERA Minster Edwin Poots visited Caledon Woolstore to launch the £4.2m Village Catalyst programme which is an innovative capital funding programme, led by DAERA and DfC with support from the Architectural Heritage Fund.

The cross departmental initiative is designed to target rural poverty and social isolation and restore and revive historic buildings, building on a highly successful four-year pilot project.
The Programme will award up to £4.2m over the next five years with DAERA earmarked to contribute £2.7m from the TRPSI Programme budget.

At the launch of the programme, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “The Village Catalyst pilot from which Caledon Regeneration Partnership benefitted was part-funded through my Department’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRSPI) Programme. The diverse range of projects such as this childcare facility in Caledon demonstrate how local needs can be addressed and ensure that our rural communities thrive and are places people want to live in.

Minister Poots added “I’m delighted to be able to announce the launch of the new Village Catalyst programme which will address dereliction and make the most of these historic assets in ways that best benefit the communities in which they are located”.

Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey said: “I am pleased that my Department has been able to work with DAERA and the Architectural Heritage Fund to develop this innovative approach. I am delighted that we can now jointly commit to a new grant scheme that will also be supported by the Housing Executive and which will maintain a close relationship with the National Lottery Heritage Fund.  Partnership is key if we want to realise the full benefit of our heritage to support people, build communities and shape places.  

“The work undertaken at Caledon is a great example of how this can be done. A derelict historic building has been given an exciting new use which will help stimulate community activity and which has already encouraged wider investment in the village. I congratulate all who have worked together so well to deliver this important project.”

Jim Brady, Chairman of Caledon Regeneration Partnership said: “By locating a childcare facility in an historic building, the project offers an opportunity to bring the building “back to life” and directly engage children and families in local heritage through a heritage engagement programme continuing to promote and educate residents about the village’s history.”

Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund added: “Investing in heritage means investing in the community to which it belongs. A £250,000 grant for the Caledon Woolstore project has been made possible by National Lottery players who raise more than £30 million every week for good causes in the UK. This exemplary project has preserved the important heritage of the building, but also provides opportunities for local people, in particular young people, to access and better understand their local heritage. Encouraging people to discover their history is a positive not only for the heritage itself but also for people’s wellbeing and strengthening communities.”

Matthew McKeague, CEO of The Architectural Heritage Fund said: “The AHF is really pleased to have been involved from the outset with the Village Catalyst pilot and this exemplary project.  Advice from our NI Support Officer, coupled with a Project Viability Grant and input from AHF’s Investment Team helped to shape The Woolstore project into a prime candidate for investment. It is brilliant to see capital works coming to an end and we look forward to continuing to help to develop other great projects now that the programme is being mainstreamed.” 

The four projects funded in the pilot identified core community uses for built heritage at risk, resulting in the development of: community-led affordable housing in a listed bank in Rathfriland; a co-working and well-being hub in the Pat Murphy House in Ederney; a training hotel for young adults with learning difficulties in the Old Post Office, Gracehill led by the local Building Preservation Trust and NOW Group; and a childcare facility in Caledon’s 19th century Woolstore, where up to 52 children will be accommodated at any one time, greatly benefiting local families. 


Notes to Editors

  1. The Village Catalyst grant scheme is a partnership initiative between the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the Department for Communities (DfC), the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). Village Catalyst shows how dereliction can be tackled by making the most of these historic assets in ways the best benefit the communities in which they sit. 
  2. Applications are invited from charities, social enterprise and other not for profit groups in rural villages of less than 5,000 people who want to tackle rural poverty and social isolation in their area by developing a sustainable use for a disused historic building.
  3. Funding of up to £10k is available to support project viability work. This support is administered by the Architectural Heritage Fund
  4. Funding of up to £20k is available to support project development work.
  5. Funding of up to £200k is available to support project delivery i.e. capital works on site to enable the historic building to deliver a sustainable use that helps to tackle rural poverty and social isolation. This support is administered by DfC. It seeks to make up an identified funding shortfall between project costs and community resources available to support the project. For further information contact please e-mail
  6. The Caledon Woolstore is a large 3 storey stone building built in the early 1800s and used to store raw wool for the vast Caledon Mill.  The engine house and beam engine (restored in 2012), the Woolstore and the column base of the chimney are all that remains of Caledon’s industrial past.  Caledon Mill closed in 1931 and all the people who worked in the mill (700 at its peak) have passed on and the community was very keen to preserve this remaining tangible link. 
  7. A Project Viability Grant from AHF established the need for a childcare facility in the village, with an exemplary scheme resulting, involving sensitive restoration of the historic building and a sympathetic contemporary extension which cleverly interlocks with the original building. It showcases the surrounding historic village from within, and uses its modernity to complement and enhance its environment externally on a challenging site in the Conservation Area.
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