Preston’s Harris misses out on £10m but wins £900k funding

Preston's Harris Museum
Preston's Harris Museum
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A major project to transform one of Preston’s landmarks has been hit with a £10m funding blow.

A project to redevelop the iconic Grade I-listed Harris Museum and Art Gallery has failed in an initial bid for significant Heritage Lottery Funding.

But the setback comes as the Re-Imagining the Harris project received a £900,000 ray of light, with council chiefs learning they have been granted separate funding from the Arts Council.

Today, council leaders said the setback was ‘disappointing’ but vowed to plough on with the major redevelopment.

The “once-in-a-lifetime” masterplan to transform the Harris was unveiled last year with local authority chiefs vowing that any modifications would remain true to the building’s tradition and history.

However, it received a muted response in some quarters with residents remaining sceptical as to whether funding could be found, with the council saying 90 per cent of the £15m project would come from external sources.

Feedback from the HLF said the knockback was due to a high level of competition and the Arts Council windfall will help next year’s bid, the council said.

Coun Peter Kelly, executive member of culture and leisure for Preston City Council told the Post: “Although this result is disappointing, it is not entirely unexpected - most large scale bids of this nature have to apply multiple times, and implement advised adjustments to their applications before being successful.

“Overall, the feedback we have received has been hugely positive and so we will work together with Lancashire County Council to build on this strong foundation, and make further improvements for a potential re-submission later this year.”

The news comes as the Arts Council pledged to invest £10m across the county up to 2022, including £900k for the Harris, often referred to as the jewel in the city’s crown.

The museum and art gallery will be added to the AC’s flagship portfolio from April and will receive a yearly £225,000 “to make it a creative, civic and community space.”

Coun Kelly, added: “This will enable us to further improve the offer at the Harris, reflecting the extensive feedback we have received from local communities over the past 12 months.”

As part of a number of funding offers across the country, Preston based charity Curious Minds will continue to receive backing from the Arts Council, with more than £5m confirmed over the next four years in the latest batch.

The organisation works alongside schools across the region to make the arts more accessible to youngsters.

Chief executive officer Derri Burdon said she was pleased to continue the “cultural education challenge.”

County councillor Peter Buckley, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “I’m really pleased to learn of the successful bid for Arts Council funding for the Harris.

“This shows again the effectiveness of partners working together who are committed to securing a long-term future for the library service. This is a real boost.”

In reference to the HLF setback, Coun Buckley added: “We want to continue to work with Preston City Council to find the best way of securing a long-term future for the library service.”

The Arts Council backs projects using a combination of public money and lottery funding.

It will invest £10,799,720 across the county up to 2022 part of £414m of funding across the North.

Jane Beardsworth, the Arts Council’s North Director said: “We are delighted to support the cultural sector across Lancashire through greater investment.

“This will increase opportunities for a wide range of people to enjoy high quality arts and culture close to where they live.

“We are supporting local artists and through funding for work with children and young people we are helping to develop the next generation of artists and audiences.”

Coun Peter Rankin, leader of Preston City Council, said: “I was disappointed to hear that we hadn’t hit the jackpot with our Heritage Lottery bid.

“However the comments from the assessors were extremely positive and we will be working on the areas of weakness that they identified.

“However, I am delighted that the Arts Council has clearly shown faith in us by awarding a grant of £900,000 over 4 years. This is very good news indeed for the Harris.”