£500,000 fund for Northern Ireland's historic buildings

This week’s announcement that the Department for Communities has launched a £500,000 Historic Environment Fund that will help restore listed buildings is certainly welcome.

Experts however have been keen to point out that it falls well short of what is really needed to protect and enhance our limited stock of built heritage.

When Detail Data carried out its ‘Building on the Past’ research late last year, contributors were keen to stress that built heritage was not just about Lords and Ladies living in big houses – it was about much more.

Somewhere to work, to socialise, to worship, to go on holiday, to shop and also to live.

The project showed how our built heritage includes virtually every type of building imaginable. It also provides a very valuable sense of place to locals and visitors alike.

Despite this, government funding for restoration projects had been slashed from £4.4m a year to zero.

The project struck a nerve with many, not just enthusiasts of history and architecture, but local communities hopeful that their village eyesore could be returned to its former glory.

The project also received considerable attention from the political classes – who discussed the matter in the Assembly chamber, the Environment Committee and also through dozens of written questions to the then Minister for Environment.

The media also played a positive role; with newspaper, magazine, radio and television coverage putting the Department under further scrutiny.

In March 2016 a public consultation was launched in relation to the establishment of a new fund.

Given the ongoing financial pressures at Stormont, it was always unlikely that the previous level of funding would be reinstated. As such, this week’s announcement is being viewed as something to build upon rather than the end of the debate.

This is because, with 8,500 listed buildings – 500 of which are deemed to be ‘at-risk’ – demand for financial support is likely to far outstrip supply.

To read the Detail Data story on the announcement of the funding package click here. http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/500-000-fund-for-northern-ireland-s-historic-buildings

And our original story is available here http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/building-on-the-past-is-government-doing-enough-to-protect-valuable-historic-sites

The data behind the Building on the Past data story can be viewed here

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