As early as 1999, ARCHES started the process which led to them securing £400,000 of funding from Heritage Lottery to administer and co-ordinate a Townscape Heritage Initiative in Randalstown. The THI scheme targeted Conservation Areas and its aim was to enable “partnerships of local, regional and national interests to preserve and enhance the distinctive character of historic areas by:
- repairing the fabric
- restoring authentic details and materials
- securing the continued use of historic buildings
- bringing vacant floor space in historic buildings back into use
- facilitating a high standard of design and materials in filling gap sites and key frontages”
The town was visited by Heritage Lottery personnel who identified 20 buildings they felt were eligible for funding. ARCHES’ role in THI was to liaise with the property owners on the list to explain the scheme to them and encourage them to take part.
Manor Architects were enlisted to help and advise with the scheme and here I must mention in particular Keith Gilmour and Patsy McShane who spent much time on the scheme in Randalstown and also Lawrence Manogue and other Conservation architects who acted as Heritage Lottery mentors. ARCHES facilitated all meetings at which proposals and plans were considered and funding decided.
This was a five-year scheme and as such was quite different from most of the projects which ARCHES had done so far. Dealing with a significant number of property owners who were mostly local business people meant that progress was necessarily slow but the scheme did progress and in the end a total of 10 buildings out of the original 20 identified by HLF were completed. We believe this compared favourably with similar schemes in other areas of Northern Ireland and was apparently a big improvement on progress in other parts of the UK where the scheme was administered by local authorities.
At the end of the scheme a booklet about the Randalstown Townscape Heritage Initiative was published. Copies of the booklet are still available from ARCHES office.