HLF and ACE join forces to launch Great Place Scheme

Rob Sharp, Issue 116/10, 01.10.2016
Partnerships to implement 12 pilot schemes, which will receive up to £1.5m to put culture at heart of communities
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Arts Council England (ACE) launched their £15m Great Place Scheme in August, “looking for locally driven vision” to motivate bids across the country, according to one of its organisers.

Under the scheme, partnerships will implement projects in 12 pilot areas in England, and compete for grants from £500,000 to £1.5m.

The initiative featured in the government’s culture white paper, published in March, with aims including ensuring that ACE and HLF funding has the maximum impact on the local economy, jobs, education, community cohesion and health.

Anne Young, the head of strategic and corporate planning at the HLF, says: “We are confident that there is a wide range of social impacts that heritage does achieve. We had been thinking about place-based approaches for some time before the culture white paper, in the context of devolutionary development across the country.”

Locally driven projects

Regarding bids, Young says the organisers do not have a template, but are just seeking locally driven projects. “It’s a genuine pilot programme,” she says. “In terms of measuring its success, we will develop an evaluation framework.”

The 12 pilot areas will probably be required to carry out their own evaluation, adds Young, although common measures will be developed across the entire project.
Measures of success will include “to what extent have we added value?”.

Young says: “How have the places used heritage and arts to achieve the scheme’s outcomes? We’ll also seek to look at how local civic leaders are more engaged with culture. To what extent have they drawn culture into other activities, such as universities and health bodies? [Is there] greater engagement of local citizens, particularly marginalised groups, making local places better to live, work and visit?”

The project is linked to a collaboration between the HLF and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). The Heritage, Identity and Place initiative, which includes a Heritage Index, uses data such as the length
of canals and the size of protected wildlife sites to measure heritage assets.

Jonathan Schifferes, an associate director, public services and communities, at the RSA, says: “This scheme is a major step for funders to take. We’ve seen this in other sectors, where funders trying to achieve similar outcomes put their differences aside and go to the sector with a joint request.

“We welcome the notion that funders are asking for people to come together, because in our work, we find the better networked a place is, the more likely it is to succeed in creating the social and economic aims it is looking for . . . having a heritage sector where different organisations that would traditionally focus on a building, a pursuit or an issue can see how they fit into a wider picture.”

At the time of the scheme’s launch, heritage minister Tracey Couch said: “A strong heritage and cultural sector supports tourism, wellbeing and economic growth. By celebrating and preserving history, architecture and art, communities can transform their local area. The Great Place Scheme will showcase just what can be done when you put culture at the heart of local plans and policies.”

Historic England is also advising on the scheme. Applicants are invited to discuss their proposals with ACE or the HLF. Expressions of interest are due on 6 October, with online applications opening on 1 November.