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Back from the brink: Bringing new life to the UK’s industrial heritage

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Ben Greener

Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Historic Environment Advisor

Ben Greener, Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Historic Environment Advisor, explains the huge economic potential of industrial buildings and sites across the UK.

This week, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced a £2.5million investment in Birmingham’s iconic-but-underused Roundhouse, a major industrial building at the heart of the city’s canal network. Built in the 1870s, the horseshoe-shaped Roundhouse was integral to industries which dominated the city for decades. Yet as Birmingham’s traditional industries declined, so did the Roundhouse.  For the last decade the majority of the building has been vacant and unused.

But now, thanks to HLF investment and an innovative project led by the Canal & River Trust and the National Trust, the building is set for a new lease of life that will revive the site and bring a much-needed economic boost to Birmingham. The renovated building will be home to a range of businesses which will create up to 20 new jobs, enabling more than 50,000 people to access the revitalised Roundhouse.

Reviving places through heritage

At HLF, we think that delivering regeneration, economic growth and new jobs this is a great use of Lottery players’ money.

So, in partnership with The Prince’s Regeneration Trust and Historic England, Heritage Lottery Fund is hosting a conference on the 1st and 2nd of December in Manchester, called Reviving places through industrial heritage, where we’ll explore how to find sustainable new uses for buildings which face similar challenges to the Roundhouse.  

Unleashing the potential

At HLF we have always understood the latent power these buildings have to build regeneration and deliver an economic boost. In 2013, we published research which provided powerful evidence that heritage can often be a major driver of economic growth.

New Ideas Need Old Buildings showed that historic buildings are the very places where new ideas and new economic activity are most likely to happen and that – rather than being a drag on productivity or a barrier to growth and investment – heritage buildings actually attract businesses in the most productive sectors of the economy.  

It also showed that more than 130,000 businesses operate in listed buildings in Britain, providing one in every 20 UK jobs. The conference will provide a platform to highlight important evidence like this and to learn how we can do more to bring the UK’s underused heritage back to life.

The Programme

The range of speakers and the topics we’ll cover in December has taken on a really exciting shape, including Manchester City Council’s chief executive, Sir Howard Bernstein, and all three chief executives of the organising partners: Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England and Prince’s Regeneration Trust.

We’ll hear about how industrial heritage aligns with Northern Powerhouse plans via Tom Walker, director of the government’s Cities & Local Growth Unit. And Sheffield City Council’s Director of Regeneration, David Caulfield will talk about how Sheffield has used its industrial heritage to enhance the city’s perception of itself while strengthening its identity externally.

There’ll be a chance to find out more from developers, investors and entrepreneurs undertaking projects across the country, including Urban Splash co-founder Tom Bloxham, Executive Chairman of igloo Regeneration Chris Brown, and former policy adviser to the Prime Minister and co-founder of innovative new workspace hub, Second Home, Rohan Silva.

There are still a few places available at this year’s conference. Visit www.ih2015.org.uk to book yours now and join the debate about the future of the UK’s industrial heritage.

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