A programme designed to save and revive unused heritage buildings across the UK is to make £5m of new funding available to community-led organisations.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) today announce a three-year partnership programme, giving communities access to grants and resources to invest in their historic buildings.

Projects to restore banks, shops, and former schools are among those in the scope of the programme, which is designed to bring new life to old buildings and new economic opportunities.

The community approach builds on AHF’s pilot initiative Heritage Development Trust (HDT), which supported seven trusts in England with revenue funding, grants, and specialist advice.

The new long-term partnership will expand the current HDT programme across the UK, to cover a range of trusts that are looking to make a larger impact in a particular community, place or wider area.

During the pilot programme, Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust regenerated a row of Georgian merchants’ houses in Sunderland’s High Street West. Through a partnership with Pop Recs, originally a pop-up record store, the Trust transformed the building into a coffee shop, bar and music venue.

The new Heritage Development Trusts will receive a package of funding that includes three-year revenue grants between £55k-£70k per annum, as well as guidance from consultants and mentors, peer-to-peer support, and regular events. They will also be eligible to apply for project viability grants and project development grants to help bring historic buildings back into use.

Interested organisations will be required to submit an Expression of Interest by 9am on Monday 26 June. Trusts that are shortlisted will be invited to submit a full application by September, and decisions on grant funding will be made in December 2023.

Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said: “Partnership is at the root of the Heritage Development Trust model – where trusts partner with local authorities and end-users to turn ‘problem buildings’ into thriving assets that benefit their communities.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, added: “Our partnership with the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) will ensure that community organisations have access to funding and expertise empowering them to save heritage, and to invest for the long-term, supporting some of the most deprived places in the UK to thrive.

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Image: Pop Recs, Sunderland, England. (Paul Alexander Knox)