HISTORIC buildings in Coventry have been transferred by the council into a trust.
It is being billed by Historic England as one of the largest ever single transfers of historic buildings from a local authority to a community heritage organisation.
Coventry City Council’s cabinet this week approved the transfer of 22 individual properties, and five adjoining sites, to the Historic Coventry Trust.
The buildings range from two Grade I listed, 14th-century monasteries to a row of 19th-century shops in a conservation area.
The council says the action will kick-start an ambitious five year, £30 million programme which will see the buildings repaired and found new, sustainable re-uses – many of which will receive funding from Historic England through the Coventry Heritage Action Zone project.
The 27 historic buildings and sites cover 500 years of Coventry’s history. They are:
· 13 properties, mostly shops, in The Burges conservation area
· The Charterhouse Heritage Park, Coach House and Charterhouse Fields
· Drapers Hall
· The Anglican Chapel in London Road Cemetery
· The Non-Conformist Chapel in London Road Cemetery
· 3 to 5 Priory Row (three properties known as the Lychgate Cottages)
· Swanswell Gatehouse
· Cooks Street Gatehouse
· Whitefriars Gatehouse and adjoining land (comprising three properties
· Whitefriars Monastery and adjoining land
Some of the buildings have an on-going economic use, such as the row of shops in The Burges. This transfer of economic use, as well as the buildings themselves, is what makes the initiative ground-breaking, Historic England adds.
Ian Morrison, Director of Planning at Historic England said: “This is one of the largest and most ambitious transfers of local authority heritage assets to date in England, and reflects a growing acceptance by many councils that charities can often provide the funding and energy these buildings need. We believe that the business approach taken by the Council and Historic Coventry Trust is unique and should be celebrated.”
A Historic England statement added: “Through the Coventry Heritage Action Zone project, supported by Historic England, many of these buildings will receive funding for projects that will generate new uses, such as holiday lets, visitor attractions, shops and even homes above businesses.
“The Historic Coventry Trust, which operates on social enterprise principles, is fund-raising to support the reuse of the buildings which will boost Coventry’s visitor economy and generate revenue for the buildings’ long term maintenance. The Trust will be able to borrow funds to supplement grants for conservation work. This is an example of what Historic England has been promoting through its guidance on heritage asset transfer – Pillars of the Community.”
Ian Harrabin, Chairman of Historic Coventry Trust said: “Despite Coventry’s image as a modern post-war city, the best of its medieval buildings actually survived the bombing and were preserved and maintained by the Council, but largely forgotten. These assets offer huge potential today to boost tourism in the city and to change its image – we have found treasure, hidden in plain sight.
“At its heart the Trust is a regeneration company, merging private sector expertise with social gain, and has a very long term vision – to preserve the city’s heritage for the next 1,000 years of its history. The Trust is already working with Historic England and the Council on an appraisal of the city’s post-war heritage.”
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Coventry’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration said: “Confidence in our city is growing following our success in recent years in attracting business investment – but our wider image remains an issue for the city centre in particular. The City of Culture bid has galvanised the city’s institutions to work together in unprecedented cohesion with tourism being a major part of our plans for the future.
“This asset transfer is a key step to making the best use of some incredible buildings which the council have neither the financial nor staff resources to deliver. The Council is safeguarded by only transferring the assets once the funding for restoration has been raised. It’s a win, win for the city and the plans will receive a huge boost in delivery if we win the City of Culture Bid next week.”