As we get to the end of the calendar year, every newspaper, magazine and televisions schedule gets packed out with retrospectives, summaries of the past year’s events and general naval-gazing. I thought it would be worth rounding off 2013 by summing up what has happened so far with the THI – on Christmas Day we will be exactly 9 months into the 5 year project – for the statisticians, that’s 15% of the way through.
We must be making some headway: people have now stopped asking me whether we actually have the funding from the HLF (that was secured in 2012) or when will the THI actually start (we started in late March). I suppose it will take the first building project to start on site or be finished before it really sinks in that the THI is here, and if all goes to plan, that should be sooner rather than later.
So, in three quarters of 2013, what has the THI achieved?
Completion of the Leyland Street improvements.
This £375,000 project had a significant share of its overall cost paid for by the THI budget. The dominant trees whose roots were pushing under buildings have been removed and the tired concrete and bitmac replaced with natural stone flags and setts.
Four Outline Grant Approvals.
We have had a very positive response on the grants front, which is good news for the town centre as a whole because it shows there is confidence to invest in Prescot. In October the Partnership Board approved outline grant applications totalling over £300,000 for buildings on Market Place, Eccleston Street, Atherton Street and High Street. The owners of these buildings are now progressing with full grant applications.
The First Heritage Training Event.
In early December a two-day course on the Repair and Maintenance of Traditional Buildings was held in Prescot. There were a number of free places and all attendees passed the test at the end.
Reaching the Community.
We have attended meetings held by the Town Council; Town Team; the Prescot, Whiston and Knowsley Village Community Network; the Friends of Prescot Cemetery and Churchyard; the South Avenue Residents’ Association; Prescot Heritage Hub; and the Town Centres Committee to tell everyone about the THI. We have also had a stand at the Elizabethan Fayre, Knowsley Flower Show, Prescot Carnival and the Tour of Britain where we have spoken to many many people about the THI. We’ve had news articles in Prescot Online, Knowsley News, the Challenge, the St Helens Star and Place North West. There is of course this website and blog and the THI Twitter account for frequent updates from the horse’s mouth.
Initiating the Partnership Board.
We have key public, business and heritage interest representatives who are volunteers on the THI Partnership Board. The Board makes key decisions about the THI and its grant applications. The Board meets every two months and to date we have held the first two meetings.
Two work placements.
We have had two fourth year Planning Students from Liverpool University working alongside us on placements that form part of their course. In all they worked a total of 110 days, gaining experience that can only help them in their future careers.
The Small Things that Make the Big Things Happen.
In addition is all of the background work – grants guidance notes and eligibility criteria don’t write themselves. It took time and effort to put together a list of approved architects and surveyors to design THI building projects. These and the Shopfront Design Guide had to be in place before we could even invite people to apply for grants. Similarly, it was a relief to be able to add 5-7 Eccleston Street as a THI project. Background work with the North West Heritage Skills Academy continues.
Getting People on Board.
To date I have met or spoken to the owners of 28 different eligible THI buildings to explain what the THI is and how the grants work. As well as the people who have submitted outline grant applications, there are many more who are at different stages of putting together outline applications. This leaves just a handful of property owners left to try and make contact with. Maybe I’ll get responses in 2014?
Given we’re only 9 months into the THI, it’s way too early to even think about getting self-congratulatory about what has been done so far – we’ve barely started. I should also point out that every single thing the THI has done so far is down to the hard work and time different groups of people and individuals – they know who they are and I haven’t the space to thank them other than to say ‘Thank you!’
On top of what the THI is doing there is so much else going on in Prescot: regular events like the Prescot Festival, Elizabethan Fayre, Carnival; and Producer’s Market; the founding of the Town Team and its first events; the ongoing craft events of the Prescot Heritage Hub; the works underway to turn the former Fusilier into a new Town Hall; the opening of the Prescot Soccer and Leisure Centre; the Oneark ‘Win a Shop’ competition; the Knowsley ARK bid to the HLF; the Tour of Britain 2013 and other activity that I’m sure I’ll remember as soon as I press ‘publish’.
I can only hope that 2014 is as fruitful as 2013. I have a hunch I’ll be reporting some good news in January.
See you in 2014!