Wisbech property owners encouraged to take advantage of grant scheme before it's too late

Property owners are being given a final opportunity to restore their buildings to their former historic glory as part of Fenland District Council's Wisbech High Street Project.

Wisbech High Street

Thanks to National Lottery players, match-funded grants of up to 75 per cent are available to owners and long-term leaseholders in Wisbech High Street to carry out repairs and restoration projects on their properties.

A number of grants have already been awarded through the Wisbech High Street Project, which was launched in 2017 thanks to £1.9million of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund's Townscape Heritage Scheme.

Now, with just 14 months to go until the project concludes, owners are being encouraged to take advantage of the funding before it's too late.

Grants are available to reinstate historic features - including timber sash windows, slate roofs, timber shop fronts, brickwork pointing and guttering - and also to create residential use of upper floors. They can also be used to fund repairs to roofs, chimneys, leadwork, stonework and much more.

Property owners have until mid-November to submit an application for consideration for grant-funding.

The final push is being led by the Council's new High Streets Project Officer Matt Wright, who joined last month with a wealth of experience in delivering historic regeneration projects including a National Lottery Heritage Fund project in Mansfield, north Nottinghamshire.

"All property owners have previously been contacted as part of the Wisbech High Street Project, but I will be getting in touch with them directly again in the coming weeks to introduce myself and tell them about the benefits of taking up this fantastic grant offer," he said. "The project was extended last year due to works being delayed by Covid, but we don't anticipate another extension, so this will be their last chance to take advantage within the remaining grant period."

Matt will also be supporting the delivery of the project's major redevelopments works at 11-12 High Street, 13-17 High Street and 'The Gap' at 24 High Street.

As life returns to some normality after the past 18 months, the project's community activity programme is also being relaunched, with plans for more heritage-related engagement events and activities in the town.

Alongside Matt, the Council has recently welcomed Jaime-Lea Taylor, who will be taking over the helm of the community activity programme as part of her new role as Creativity and Culture Development Officer.

With a degree in Documentary Photography, experience of creating a research-led book and exhibition celebrating a Norfolk town, and two years as volunteer Community Curator at Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Jaime-Lea brings huge passion to the role.

"Throughout the course of the project so far there have been many opportunities for local people to get involved in activities supporting the ongoing work," she said. "But I'm looking forward to getting started and working with the local community in the coming weeks and months to increase engagement even further."

Plans in the pipeline include work experience for students to learn about conservation and traditional restoration skills, as well as art and photography opportunities.

The series of free training workshops on traditional construction and heritage skills, provided by specialists Lincoln Conservation, are ongoing too - with the next one taking place online in November. Keep an eye on the Wisbech High Street Project website for updates! Anyone who has missed the previous online workshops can view them for free on the project's YouTube channel.

Cllr Chris Seaton, the Council's Cabinet member responsible for heritage, said: "So much great work has been happening on the High Street and behind the scenes during the course of the Wisbech High Street Project, but the best is yet to come! It's going to be an exciting final year as key redevelopments come to fruition; more community activities are held in the town and we begin to see even more tangible differences to architectural quality of our High Street buildings.

"But there is still opportunity for property owners who haven't taken advantage of the grant funding available so far to do so. I would urge them to get in touch so they can be part of it!"

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