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Transforming Places through Heritage – report on the first year of grant-making

5 March 2021

2019 saw the launch of the Architectural Heritage Fund’s Transforming Places Through Heritage, a new grants programme funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with the aim of supporting charities and social enterprises to save and find new uses for historic buildings located on high streets and in town centres.  We are delighted to share this report, documenting the achievements and lessons learned from the programme’s first twelve months.

Despite the challenges of 2020 and ongoing impacts of COVID-19, the first year saw a total of 107 grant offers, totalling investment of almost £5.5 million.  From Bodmin to Berwick and Franciscan friaries to former department stores, the programme has supported a diverse range of projects and organisations. 

The challenges facing our high streets have only increased as a result of COVID-19 and we recognise the importance of increasing capacity within the heritage sector and ongoing partnership work.  A key part of the programme has been focused on capacity building, through the Heritage Development Trust Pilot (HDT) and Open High Streets events.  Four existing organisations have been supported through the HDT initiative, to help them to make a step-change in their operations and support their long-term sustainability.  Alongside this, and in partnership with Locality, Heritage Trust Network and Stir To Action, the Open High Streets programme was launched and delivered three events targeted at groups undertaking or planning to undertake a heritage regeneration project in a high street.

Gavin Richards, AHF’s Programme Manager for Transforming Places Through Heritage, said:

“The Transforming Places through Heritage programme got off to a strong start, with a lot of interest from charities and social enterprises following its launch in the summer of 2019. This interest translated into sustained demand for grants and other support throughout the first year, which has continued despite the pandemic. What this shows is that the third sector has an important role to play in the recovery of our high streets, with new energy and ideas for repurposing the heritage assets that already exist at the heart of our towns and cities.”

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