The Architectural Heritage Fund has been working with Historic Coventry Trust for over a year to support their ambitious plans for Coventry’s heritage. These plans took a major step forward last week, when Coventry City Council’s cabinet approved the transfer of 22 individual properties, and five adjoining sites, to the Trust. The buildings include some of the City’s best medieval and Georgian buildings and range from two Grade I listed, 14th-century monasteries to a row of 19th-century shops in a conservation area.
Ian Harrabin, Chairman of Historic Coventry Trust said: “Despite Coventry’s image as a modern post-war city, the best of its medieval buildings actually survived the bombing and were preserved and maintained by the Council, but largely forgotten. These assets offer huge potential today to boost tourism in the city and to change its image – we have found treasure, hidden in plain sight.”
Historic Coventry Trust is a regeneration company, merging private sector expertise with social gain, and has a very long term vision – to preserve the city’s heritage for the next 1,000 years of its history. It is this vision that AHF has supported through early grant funding and by bringing key heritage partners to the table. CEO of AHF, Matthew McKeague, believes “This is a hugely ambitious and ground breaking asset transfer. AHF is looking to support increased social enterprise use of historic buildings – Coventry’s model offers a great opportunity to do this on a city-wide scale.”
Coventry has also had the support of Historic England through a new Heritage Action Zone.
Ian Morrison, Head of Planning at Historic England, pointed out that “Some of the buildings have an on-going economic use, such as the row of shops in The Burges. This transfer of economic use, as well as the buildings themselves, is what makes the initiative ground-breaking.“
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Coventry’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration said: “The City of Culture bid has galvanised the city’s institutions to work together in unprecedented cohesion with tourism being a major part of our plans for the future. “This asset transfer is a key step to making the best use of some incredible buildings which the council have neither the financial nor staff resources to deliver. The Council is safeguarded by only transferring the assets once the funding for restoration has been raised.”