Vice Lord-Lieutenant of West Midlands George Marsh, Veryan Heal (Regional Director of Historic Engla

Member Article

Historic Coventry Trust acclaimed by national heritage bodies

The launch of a new charitable trust to restore Coventry’s historic buildings and return them to productive use has received acclaim from national heritage bodies.

Historic Coventry Trust has been formed to take over ownership of a number of historically significant buildings in the city centre which are underused or in need of repair.

The community based charity will raise funds for much-needed restoration and improvement, and create new uses to add to the city’s visitor appeal and image change.

The new organisation has been formed by the expansion of the charity behind the restoration of The Charterhouse as the centrepiece of a new 70-acre Heritage Park which recently secured Heritage Lottery backing of £6.7 million.

The Bishop of Coventry the Right Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth, has agreed to be the patron of the new charity and hosted its launch to around 50 people at his home.

The Trust’s voluntary chairman, Ian Harrabin, has already restored a number of the city’s historic buildings over the past 25 years and is currently behind the regeneration of Far Gosford Street through his company, CDP.

Harrabin said: “This is a major step for the city and reflects an upsurge in interest in its heritage that will continue to grow as the bid for City of Culture approaches. The Trust is working closely with the council on plans for assets in council ownership and is also seeking to acquire buildings from private owners, where they are at risk.

“By the very nature of heritage properties, the number of them increases with time. Several buildings created in the 20th century in Coventry are now Listed Buildings and form an important part of our recent history and an asset for tourism.

“The Trust is not just about medieval buildings but will work with partners to ensure better use of all of our heritage. The aim of Historic Coventry is become a little ‘National Trust’ for the city, ensuring that our most important buildings never again fall into disrepair and disuse.

“The aim is to bring an increasing number of buildings under the Trust’s guardianship over time and to restore the buildings accessing grants from bodies such as Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England as well as donations from charities, companies and individuals.

“All will be put to sympathetic use boosting the visitor economy and providing income for their maintenance and management. The creation of a core income is key to the long term sustainability of the buildings and the Trust’s abilities to take on more projects in future.”

The proposals are seen as a key part of the bid for the City of Culture title in 2021 and to offer huge potential in making the city more attractive to new investors and tourists.

Veryan Heal, Regional Director of Historic England, said the community ownership and development model could be rolled out across the country.

“This is great news for Coventry. Historic England is fully behind the transfer of historic buildings to community-led charities where appropriate.

“We are proud to be supporting the Trust’s work on the Charterhouse and are looking at other areas where we can help. This is a great time to launch a body to safeguard the Coventry’s rich heritage - we will be working closely with the Trust over the coming months and believe that the Historic Coventry has the potential to be a model with lessons that we can share elsewhere.”

Ann Lucas, Leader of Coventry City Council, said: “This is great news for the city and, we believe, an innovative way of preserving and improving some of our historical assets for the good of Coventry and to protect them for future generations to enjoy.”

Buildings under consideration include Priory Row, The Burges, London Road Cemetery chapels, Whitefriars and Gate, Bayley Lane.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Matt Joyce .

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