Alnwick misses out on £44m heritage funding scheme
Regeneration chiefs in Alnwick have admitted defeat in their efforts to access a £44million funding pot.
The Government has allocated the funding to create dozens of High Street Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) overseen by Historic England.
It forms part of the wider £675million Future High Streets Fund designed to help transform struggling town centres across the country.
Officers from Alnwick Town Council and a representative from Alnwick Civic Society recently met with counterparts from Northumberland County Council to discuss the possibility of submitting an expression of interest for an Alnwick High Streets HAZ.
Tim Kirton, funding and projects officer at Alnwick Town Council, revealed: “Unfortunately we weren’t chosen for the Future High Streets Fund because, as a town, we aren’t as deprived as others. Blyth was selected to be put forward for Northumberland.
“We’ve been waiting on this heritage funding coming out for quite a while now and guidance was issued about two weeks ago.
“We held a meeting to read through the criteria for the applications but unfortunately there is a consensus that a bid for an Alnwick HAZ would have no real chance of succeeding.
“Once again, it doesn’t meet the HAZ requirements. Specifically, our high street offer is in relatively good health with few voids; the town centre and its heritage significants are not considered at all to be at risk; and we lack the critical mass of heritage buildings in need. They are looking for a physical concentration of heritage buildings at risk and in Alnwick we don’t really have that.
“We have a couple of buildings which are obviously at risk such as the Corn Exchange and General Lambert’s House but they are quite scattered and the Corn Exchange, officially, is outside the town centre according to the Local Plan. General Lambert’s House was recently awarded funding from Heritage England anyway so is ineligible for a second award through this.
“There are no gap sites either which are problematic, there would not be a significant amount of unused floorspace brought back into use.
“Finally, we were hoping we might be able to access funding for The Cobbles but that would not deliver the economic outputs that are wanted so I’m afraid we miss out.”
However, on a more positive note, Mr Kirton revealed there was a consensus that Alnwick does have a lot of organisations which are willing to work in partnership with each other to develop town centre improvement projects.
“It’s expected there will be substantial opportunities for alternative funding sources in future such as Borderlands,” he said.
“We’re waiting on the Borderlands criteria coming out but what has been suggested is that we work with partners for the next six months to produce a strategy which identifies suitable town centre projects, including heritage-related projects, which can be costed and made ready on the shelf.”
Among the ideas are a town trail between the castle and town centre, new and better signposting, reducing street clutter and an updated shopfront policy which is actively enforced.
“We do have a shopfronts policy which dates back 20+ years which needs to be revised,” said Mr Kirton. “The Hexham one has been suggested as a model but it does really need to be enforced as we’ve seen with recent shop frontages.”
Coun Martin Swithbank admitted: “It’s disappointing that we don’t fit the criteria for HAZ funding.”