Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Newspaper column - St Austell edition - 26 August 2015

I am extremely happy to be supporting the on-going process for a Heritage Lottery Fund application.  St Austell has been given the opportunity to submit a plan for a Townscape Heritage Scheme to improve the external structures of historic buildings in the town.

The Historic Environment Department of Cornwall Council and St Austell Town Council are jointly leading the work on the application.  The Cornwall Council officers have a track record of delivering heritage schemes in Cornwall and St Austell Town Council brings local knowledge and expertise to bear. 

While success is not guaranteed, it has been heartening that the key organisations in the town have been working together to ensure that we submit a high quality application.  As well as the Town Council, the Business Improvement District, the St Austell Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Market House team have all contributed to the process. 

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant money will enable owners of historic buildings to restore the facades of the buildings to their former glory.  The standard of the work will be carefully monitored and controlled to ensure that our important buildings are preserved. 

While many building owners keep their buildings to a high standard, the recession has impacted other owners negatively, meaning that essential repair work has been delayed.  Next time you are in the town centre look above the shop frontages and you will see the challenges that we face.

Many buildings in the centre of St Austell tell the story of our history and we should protect them.  The architect Silvanus Trevail designed buildings such as the Red Bank, and the building that is now Sports Direct was once Public Meeting Rooms.  One of the outcomes of this scheme will be that education about the town centre history will increase.

The application is in its final stages and the town could benefit by up to £1 million. The scheme will also progress pioneering energy saving and skills training initiatives which will be led by local businesses and education centres.  These will upskill local contractors in traditional and new sustainable building techniques.

No-one is under any illusion that improving buildings is the silver bullet that St Austell needs; we need more, better paid jobs to stimulate the economy which in turn will bring prosperity back to the town.  But, the Townscape Heritage Scheme will form one of the building blocks that we need to improve the town centre and it is for this reason that I am lending my support to this application.

If we are successful, the whole scheme will take a number of years to deliver and I look forward to watching the townscape change for the better.  I wish the project team good luck in their application.

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