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Council plans big boost to city’s heritage

Published Monday, 20 November 2017

The Council is set to approve entry into a Strategic Partnership with Historic Coventry Trust (HCT) that will lead to the transfer and refurbishment of a number of historic buildings in the city.

The aims of the HCT are to secure the future of the historic buildings of Coventry, raise funds for their restoration and reuse, whilst improving the city as a cultural destination.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said:

“This is fantastic news for the city. The move of some of our historic buildings over into the Historic Coventry Trust will enable them to be better protected, restored and ultimately used again.

“The Trust is able to access funding that the Council cannot, and it will see some of our hidden treasures back out on display for the city to make the most of. The proposed plans will link up Coventry’s cultural gems and encourage tourists and visitors to come in to the city and see the best of what we have to offer. The Burges will benefit in a similar way to Far Gosford Street which really has been transformed with many vulnerable buildings saved.

“The best way to protect historic properties is to make sure they are in use. Buildings that are open, accessible, heated and used have a much greater chance of long term survival.”

“The work underway to restore and protect Charterhouse is a really good example of how this works. So, under this plan I’d expect to see the same for some of our other much loved and most historic properties.”

The Strategic Partnership will enable HCT to work up proposals and raise the funding for restoration before the properties are transferred.  This guarantees not only restoration but also secures the long-term future for the properties. The properties selected are:

  • Council-owned properties within The Burges/Hales Street
  • Charterhouse Heritage Park
  • Drapers’ Hall
  • The two unused chapels in London Road Cemetery
  • Lychgate Cottages (3-5 Priory Row)
  • Swanswell and Cook St Gatehouses
  • Whitefriars Gatehouse (Toy Museum) and adjoining land
  • Whitefriars Monastery and adjoining land.

Once the Strategic Partnership is approved, work to restore and convert the properties will be completed in phases subject to funding being secured.

Ian Harrabin, Chairman of the Historic Coventry Trust, said: “The Trust is a charity set up to restore and maintain the best of Coventry’s heritage and, like the National Trust, to secure the future of the buildings forever. 

“Historic Coventry can raise funding that isn’t available to the Council and we have already made significant progress on securing the money for several of the projects, helped significantly by the Heritage Action Zone designation by Historic England. This is a forward thinking approach from the Council that recognises that the buildings need considerable investment of time and money, which would divert Council resources from core services. 

“In the past other councils have sold buildings to private owners only for them to fall into further disrepair, making the restoration bill even higher.  By transferring to the Trust, the Council are both securing their repair and their long term future for the people of the city.

“Like any charity, Historic Coventry does need community support and we hope that many people and companies will join our growing list of donors to help us secure the city’s heritage for the next 1,000 years.”

The first phase will see proposals brought forward for the transfer of the Coach House and Charterhouse Fields and the Listed Anglican and Non-Conformist Chapels situated in London Road Cemetery. The Charterhouse building is already owned by the Trust and over £6m of Heritage Lottery grants are progressing on both projects for a decision in the Spring of 2018.

The proposal is to develop The Charterhouse and surrounding land as a stately home-style visitor attraction that explains the rich history of the site with a café, restaurant, conference centre and wedding venue. 

The parkland will be improved with access to the river, new wetland areas and woodland enhancing wildlife habitat. The Heritage Park will also connect The Charterhouse and the London Road Cemetery into a combined visitor attraction.

The Burges/Hales Street Townscape Heritage Scheme will include the restoration of buildings, shopfront improvements, the infilling of small gap sites and the opening up of the River Sherbourne to create a new public square.

The Trust also plans the conversion of the Lychgate Cottages at 3-5 Priory Row into special heritage accommodation for tourists and other visitors to the city.

Whitefriars Gate plans will see the Gatehouse converted into two visitor cottages and the side annex into office units for possible creative/digital use. Swanswell and Cook St Gates will also be converted to visitor accommodation bringing them back into use.

Design work is well underway on plans to restore Drapers’ Hall as a centre for the education and performance of classical music.  The project has already secured £1m from the Arts Council.

Initial ideas for the reuse of the former Whitefriars Monastery include a possible café’/restaurant at ground floor level in the former cloisters with the first floor space as future exhibition/event space with community use.

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