£300k Social Investment Fund to Secure the Future of Northern Ireland’s Historic Buildings Launched

Date published: 03 June 2019

A £300k social investment loan fund is now available to support organisations in Northern Ireland to deliver positive economic and social impact to communities through the re-use of historic buildings.

Historic Environment Division at the Department for Communities has made the contribution towards the Architectural Heritage Fund’s (AHF) recently launched Heritage Impact Fund (HIF).  The Fund offers tailored loan finance for charities, social enterprises and community businesses seeking to acquire, reuse or redevelop buildings of historical or architectural importance. The buildings may be listed, in a conservation area or may be of special significance to the community. 

Iain Greenway, Director of Historic Environment Division, Department for Communities said:

"We are delighted to be able to contribute to this important fund. The Architectural Heritage Fund has a long and impressive track record of working with communities and organisations to bring fresh life to places through historic buildings. We are already working closely with them on our Community Enterprise Catalyst Programme and the DAERA-funded Village Catalyst programme. Our contribution to the Heritage Impact Fund is a natural extension of this, allowing more to be done in more places through the use of a revolving loan fund, in ways that we believe will allow the sector to step up and deliver in ways that grants alone cannot."

Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive of the AHF said:

“We are extremely pleased to be launching this fund alongside so many partners, including the Department for Communities. The Heritage Impact Fund is designed to provide flexible and targeted finance, supporting not-for-profit organisations both within and outside the heritage sector - the common link being the re-use of a heritage building and delivering local economic and social benefits. We’ve supported numerous projects of this type in Northern Ireland and with this funding from the Department for Communities we look forward to supporting many more over the next few years.”

The AHF has a long history of providing loan finance to heritage projects in Northern Ireland. Organisations in Northern Ireland that have benefited from loan funding from the AHF include Hearth Revolving Fund for its Sion Mills Stables project. Sion Mills is located in a small village near Strabane in Co. Tyrone and was founded by the Herdman family in 1828 as a linen mill.

Hearth Revolving Fund acquired the Sion Mills Stables in 2010, following Northern Ireland’s first compulsory purchase of a listed building. An AHF loan of £50,000 (since repaid) was offered for working capital for the first phase of works, allowing the Trust to stabilise the walls and reinstate the roof. The second phase completed the restoration. Hearth retains ownership and leases the buildings to Sion Mills Building Preservation Trust. The Stables currently houses the very popular Restaurant 1861, a small museum and spaces available for community hire. The project has boosted civic and community pride in a village that lost so many jobs when the Mill around which it was built closed, and is actively promoting tourism to boost the economic performance of the area. As the only general museum in the Strabane area, it works closely with the Derry City and Strabane District Council on education and tourism and the Stables are now very much a focus for community activity. The project has boosted civic and community pride in a village that lost so many jobs when the Mill closed, and is actively promoting tourism to boost the economic performance of the area.

Further information on the Heritage Impact Fund and how to apply is available from the AHF website here

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