Emergency fund launched for architects, engineers and surveyors who keep Yorkshire's heritage alive

Historic England has launched an emergency fund to support out-of-work staff in the heritage sector.

Thousands of artisan craftsmen and women work in the heritage construction sector
Thousands of artisan craftsmen and women work in the heritage construction sector

The government-funded heritage body is releasing up to £2million as a 'safety net' and making cash available to small organisations and attractions that need help to survive the coronavirus crisis.

Historic England has conducted a survey into the impact of the shutdown on the heritage industry, and have found that businesses with fewer than 10 employees are struggling. More than seven in 10 respondents in Yorkshire said they had lost business and more than half had been forced to cancel income-generating events.

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The most vulnerable professions supported by the sector are artisan craftsmen and women, architects, engineers and surveyors, many of whom work on the restoration and maintenance of listed buildings.

While many organisations have been able to furlough staff and access government support in the short term, they expressed fears for their future in the longer term.

These small businesses are crucial to the operation of England’s heritage construction sector, which generates an estimated £7.1bn in GVA to the economy. It employs 100,000 construction workers (including specialised craftspeople), 6,000 archaeologists and 24,000 architects, engineers and quantity surveyors. They are vital for the maintenance and continued enjoyment of England’s heritage.

Historic England is inviting applications from heritage organisations, self-employed contractors, third-sector organisations and voluntary groups in Yorkshire and Humber that have been severely affected by the impact of coronavirus and which need additional short-term emergency financial support to ensure their survival.

They will also consider supporting projects and activities that respond to the current crisis and contribute to recovery in the heritage sector.

The fund is designed to complement the measures already put in place by the government, as well as the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s recently announced £50million emergency fund.

Among the heritage attractions under threat in Yorkshire are the region's three preserved railways, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and Wensleydale Railway, which have all launched appeals for public donations.

Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “We know that coronavirus has hit everyone hard, including the heritage sector, and that there are many individuals and organisations that are really struggling for survival at the moment. The safeguarding of their livelihoods will also determine the survival of our most precious heritage. Many of the skills that are needed to protect our heritage are already in desperately short supply and if these skilled specialists go out of business during this difficult time, the hard truth is that some of our heritage will be lost forever.”

Applicants in Yorkshire and Humber are invited to apply for grants of up to £25,000 to address financial difficulties arising from coronavirus. Grants of £50,000 are also available for projects and activities that reduce risks to heritage by providing information, resources and skills. Existing Historic England grant recipients should get in contact with their individual project contacts to discuss what flexibility they might require at this time.

The deadline for new applications is midnight on May 3 and the funding for successful applications will be awarded from mid-May.

More information on how to apply can be found at https://historicengland.org.uk/coronavirus/fund

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