Friday, 10 February 2012

The 2011 UK Association of Preservation Trusts National Conference: Overview

‘Inspiring Partnerships - Building the Big Society’
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
13th & 14th October 2011

The UK Association of Preservation Trusts (UK APT) was established in 1989 to assist building preservation trusts to save historic buildings for future generations. The UK APT provides preservation trusts with a network of specialist support and advice as well as offering opportunities to share problems and solutions.

This is a summary of a selection of the presentations from the two day conference in Belfast by Gary Potter…

Sustainability and Built Heritage

John McMillen (Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Environment Agency) opened the two day conference with a presentation addressing sustainability and built heritage. John’s presentation focused on the work of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) in promoting the potential of our local built heritage. Early in his presentation John made it clear that the built heritage is a major ‘repository’ of embodied energy and of energy use. To meet targets for carbon reduction the reuse of existing building stock is essential. The NIEA has issued advice on reuse and retaining character (windows guidance & energy efficiency guidance). The sustainability issue provides a further reason to retain historic buildings alongside existing motives surrounding community focus, sense of place and regeneration opportunities.

John McMillen (Chief Executive, NIEA). Credit: John Kelly.

The NIEA also believes that built heritage offers economic benefits to Northern Ireland through tourism potential (NIEA are working closely with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board on the Signature Projects) and sustainable economic development (Architecture and built heritage adds value e.g. Merchant Hotel, Belfast). The Historic Environment Strategic Forum, chaired by the Environment Minister focuses on the contribution of historic buildings and monuments to the economy and society.

Merchant Hotel. Photo by Gary Potter.

The NIEA works closely with the Northern Ireland Planning Service to ensure that Northern Ireland’s built heritage is protected. John explained that this is not always easy as many historic buildings do not easily lend themselves to new economically viable uses. The NIEA and Planning Service also work to prevent inappropriate work being carried out on listed buildings and ensure appropriate enforcement action is taken. The NIEA also works in partnership with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) by way of the Built Heritage at Risk in Northern Ireland (BHARNI) register, established in 2004. The BHARNI register “aims to heighten public awareness of structures that appear to be 'at risk'; provide help and advice for existing owners who may wish to engage upon a suitable scheme of repair; and offer assistance to potential new restoring owners who are looking for suitable properties”.

Templemore Avenue Baths are registered as at risk on the BHARNI Register.
Click here to read Gary Potter's blog report on this historic building.
Photo by Gary Potter.

In his concluding remarks John stated that sustainability is about energy, health and wellbeing and the economy and society. The NIEA aims to utilise our built heritage to maximise the potential in each of these areas.

For more information you can click here to visit the Northern Ireland Environment Agency's website.

Association of Preservation Trusts Northern Ireland: Onwards and Upwards

Primrose Wilson CBE. BA (Hons). SRN. Hon. RSUA (Chair of Association of Preservations Trusts Northern Ireland) presented a fascinating selection of work completed by preservation trusts in Northern Ireland. Primrose has been heavily involved in historic buildings throughout her career which has included roles in the Historic Buildings Council for NI, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, HEARTH, Ulster Historic Churches Trust, Follies Trust and the Royal Society of Ulster Architects. Primrose is the current Chairperson of the many enthusiast preservation trusts around located Northern Ireland. 

Primrose Wilson, Chair of Association of Preservation Trusts
Northern Ireland. Credit: John Kelly.

This is a selection of the projects Primrose highlighted to the 2011 UK APT National Conference.

Carrickfergus Gasworks

Carrickfergus Gasworks is the only coal gasworks to survive in Ireland and one of only three in the UK. The Gasworks date from 1855 when they first provided for the towns street lamps. The Gasworks closed in 1987 and the Carrickfergus Gasworks Preservation Society saved the site from demolition. The volunteer run Society, restored and repaired the buildings and machinery to allow safe public access. 

Carrickfergus Gasworks.
The Heritage Lottery Fund provided £731,000 towards the repair and restoration of the original buildings and plant, the provision of a secure home for the gasworks’ documentary archive and its collection of appliances, exhibitions, guided tours and access to the archives and a supported education programme to raise awareness of the importance of the Gasworks and improvements to the physical access to the site. 

The entrance to the Gasworks museum.
The Gasworks are now fully restored and welcome around 2000 people to the museum each year. The success of the scheme has also resulted in the upgrading of the Gasworks from B1 listing to grade A listed status.

Mullycovet Mill

Mullycovet Mill in Belcoo was built in the 1700s and the waterwheel continued to operate until 1929 when it began to fall into ruin. With more than £100,000 of Heritage Lottery Fund money the building was carefully restored to full working order and opened to the public in May 2006. It is now the only surviving all wooden cog and rung mill in Northern Ireland. The building was relatively modest but as Primrose explained, it was a huge catalyst for change in the area.

Mullycovet Mill, Belcoo, Co Fermanagh.

Drum Gate Lodge

This Grade B1 listed lodge near Bushmills was once on the Buildings at Risk Register due to falling into a considerable state of disrepair and sporting an ominous looking crack running the length of the building. This unique structure was built c.1800 by the Traill family and is still part of the Ballylough estate. 

The Drum Gate Lodge.

The Irish Landmark Trust was able to acquire a lease of the structure and by adding a modest extension, linked to the old structure by a curving glass hall, creating holiday accommodation.

For more information on the Drum Gate Lodge visit this link.

Conway Mill

Conway Mill was built around 1842 as one of the first linen spinning mills on the Lower Falls Road. After the formation of the Falls Flax Spinning Company in 1865 a new five-storey mill was constructed between 1900-10. Conway Mill closed in 1972 but found a new use in 1982 as a focus for community, economic and social regeneration. 

Conway Mill before and after restoration.
Photo from

In 1999 the Conway Mill Preservation Trust was established to preserve, protect and restore the old mill building. A £4.5m refurbishment of Conway Mill was completed in early 2011 by H&J Martin. Work included the structural repairs, building conservation and the internal refurbishment of the two mill blocks. The refurbishment has also provided 20 new artist studios, 16 new workspaces and enterprise units for new and expanding businesses in the area. Conway Mill recently won the award for “Best Use of Heritage in Regeneration” at the prestigious Regeneration and Renewal Awards in September 2011. 

Conway Mill pictured after successful restoration.


Christchurch is situated in College Square North in Belfast. It is a neoclassical Georgian church built in 1832 to the designs of Dublin architect William Farrell. It is the third oldest Anglican Church in Belfast, built by public subscription for those worshippers who did not wish to pay tithes at St. Anne’s or St. George’s. Having suffered a declining congregation the church closed and was deconsecrated in the early 1990s. A devastating arson attack in 1995 meant the building was at threat of demolition. 

Christhurch after the arson attack in 1995.
Photo from

Fortunately an agreement was reached that involved the Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust (BBPT) undertaking restoration work and the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) taking on the responsibility of managing the building. The restoration has provided RBAI with a library and IT centre at a cost of £1.4 million. The restored Christchurch was opened in 2003 by HRH The Prince of Wales and has since won numerous awards. 

The new interior of Christchurch provides modern facilities behind
the restored historic facade. Photo from

Portrush Town Hall

Portrush Town Hall was designed by Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon, and built by Thomas Stewart Dickson. The building was formally inaugurated on 12 August 1872. In 1928 the hall was extended to provide the present theatrical stage. During the 1960s the old circular Reading Room, by then the town's Library, became the Council Chamber, but when Portrush lost its autonomy and was absorbed within Coleraine Borough Council the hall lost a major part of its historic function. The theatre continued to be used until the building was closed in 1997.

Portrush Town Hall after restoration.
Photo by stevecadman on

When the building became threatened with demolition Hearth Revolving Fund (Preservation Trust) and the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society helped local people campaign against the proposals to demolish. Demolition was avoided and Hearth was approached by Coleraine Borough Council to see if a partnership could be formed to restore the building as it appeared that a building preservation trust might be the most viable form of action.

The restored hall within Portrush Town Hall.
Photo from

Refurbishment work during 2004-5 involved the demolition of a 1950s extension, a new extension to provide toilet accommodation, a remodelled staircase, an extended basement, re-roofing replacement of decayed bricks and restoration of the old reading room. 

The Sustainable Reuse of the Roe Valley Workhouse

Damien Corr, General Manager of the Limavady Community Development Initiative presented an overview of the successful restoration and reuse of the Roe Valley Workhouse.

Damien Corr, General Manager of the Limavady Community
Development  Initiative. Credit: John Kelly.

Newtownlimavady Workhouse opened on 15th March 1842 and is now one of the best preserved workhouses in Ireland. It was designed hold 600 inmates although this almost doubled during the height of the Famine. The Workhouse closed in 1930 and was reopened as Roe Valley District Hospital in 1937. The hospital later closed in 1997.

The Roe Valley Workhouse. Photo from

The Limavady Community Development Initiative (LCDI) was set up in 1986/7 and in 1996 the organisation began to consider options to save the Workhouse which was due to be vacated by the hospital the following year. Damien explained that if LCDI did nothing then the building would likely be lost. “Sometimes you look at the red tape and hassle and think it’s not worth it - but it is” stated Damien. Although he conceded that if you can not make the building work then historic value alone is not enough. Damien was lucky to have tenants in the building before restoration began. Although this presented challenges during construction work it also made justifying the restoration a lot easier for LCDI.

The Roe Valley Workhouse. Photo from

LCDI purchased the building in 1998 for the sum of £125,000 as they were able to convince the Health Authority that the Workhouse and the LCDI plan presented better economic and social benefits for the town than development of the site. The Health Authority agreed, despite significantly higher offers from private developers, to sell the Workhouse to LCDI. However LCDI did not have the funds in place to make the purchase! The solution - Paying back in installments (the last installment was paid in 2010). This innovative solution combined with vision and a degree of risk has saved an important building from demolition and now over 160 people work within the fully let building.

The refurbishment work, carried out by Consarc Conservation, relied on over £2.5m in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Environment and Heritage Service, Department of the Environment and the International Fund for Ireland.

The Roe Valley Workhouse. Photo from

The Workhouse started as the centre of the community and is now back as the centre of the community explained Damien. The Workhouse provides office space for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, an outpatients centre for Altnagelvin Hospital, an ambulance station and casual renting space for local community groups. The casual renting space has allowed over 60 groups to meet who otherwise could not afford to do so.

Roe Valley Workhouse is now “a modern functioning hub for the community” stated Damien Corr, General Manager of the Limavady Community Development Initiative.

Working with the Housing Associations - The Best of Both Worlds?

Marcus Patton, Director of Hearth (since 1978) is a qualified architect and previous committee member for the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society. He was the first Chairman of the Association of Preservation Trusts NI, served on the Historic Buildings Council NI and is currently on the Ministerial Advisory Group for Architecture and the Built Environment in Northern Ireland (MAG).

Hearth have been involved with many types of significant
 restoration projects throughout Northern Ireland.
Pictured is the restored Jaffa Fountain.

Hearth was founded in 1978 with the twin objectives of providing social housing and preserving the character of towns and villages through the restoration and reuse of historic buildings. Hearth now consists of two bodies, sharing the same committee members and offices. The Hearth Housing Association restores and manages buildings for letting to people on the housing waiting list with support from public housing funds. The Hearth Revolving Fund restores listed buildings, usually at risk of demolition or in a poor state, with mainly private finance and resells the properties, usually as dwellings.

Hearth Housing Association was founded in 1978 as a non profit making housing association with charitable status. It provides a range of affordable housing and flats for rent throughout Northern Ireland by accessing housing finance. The Association aims to restore without gentrification and can operate where market values are low.

Hearth Revolving Fund is also non profit making and holds charitable status. The Fund enables relatively little capital to be used over and over again to buy, restore, and sell buildings, with the profits going towards financing the next project. The Fund focuses on projects which are unattractive for developers and aims to restore important buildings that would otherwise be lost. The Fund is subject to market forces but can move relatively quickly to save a building if conditions are right. To date the Revolving Fund has restored around 30 buildings which otherwise may have been lost. Two architects working within Hearth carry out work for the Revolving Fund and the Housing Association.

Marcus Patton, Director of Hearth. Credit: John Kelly.

Marcus summarised the main advantages of the Hearth structure:
  • an involved committee 
  • charity status 
  • local involvement 
  • expertise 
  • access to funds 
  • flexible 
  • partnership 

Marcus then provided a summary of some of Hearth’s Revolving Fund and Housing Association projects:

Seaforde Almshouses

The Almshouses in Seaforde, Co Down had fallen into decay by 1970. Looking to restore the houses for resale, Hearth Housing Association purchased the buildings and restored the properties for rental housing with a housing grant. Each pair of houses was combined to form one present house, one door in each porch being converted to a window, and new kitchen and bathroom extensions were added.

The Almshouses in Seaforde, Co Down.
© Copyright Eric Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Antrim Arms

The Antrim Arms in Glenarm, Co Antrim was built around 1840 and run as a hotel until 1973 when a bomb exploded to the rear of the building. The hotel remained vacant until restoration started to convert the building into flats in 1984. As one of the largest buildings in the main street of Glenarm, its restoration was vitally important to the village. Hearth Housing Association provided accommodation with a Housing Association Grant.

The Antrim Arms, Glenarm, Co Antrim.
Photo by Hearth.

Camden Terrace

53-59 Camden Street, Belfast was constructed between 1849-52, as most of the Queen’s University area was being developed. The terrace of four houses consisted of three floors, an attic and basement (unusual for Belfast). The terrace was built of brick faced in stucco and designed in a free classical style with paired round-headed windows on the ground floor. During the late 20th Century the houses had fallen into a poor state and the University was to demolish them to make way for a car park just before Hearth stepped in to acquire the terrace for restoration. Hearth Housing Association provided eight two-bedroom flats and four one-bedroom flats at Camden Terrace.

Camden Street terrace. Photo by Hearth.

Drumbeg Lockhouse

The Lockhouse at 249 Malone Road, Belfast is one of the oldest buildings in the Belfast area, dating to around 1760, to designs by Thomas Omer, who built similar lock-keeper's cottages along the line of the canal from Lisburn to Belfast. Hearth Revolving Fund purchased the property from Belfast City Council for restoration with no electricity or drainage. Unfortunately arson occurred just before restoration could begin but fortunately a detailed survey provided a plan of how the property appeared before the fire. The project proved to costly and was not within a housing need catchment area for the Housing Executive so they could not provide a Housing Grant to Hearth. Hearth therefore carried out a complete restoration of the Lockhouse as their first fully 'revolving' project. 

Drumbeg Lockhouse. Photo by Hearth.

The National Trust, the Pilgrim Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund provided loans, as Hearth's revolving fund had no permanent capital of its own at that time. The sale price covered repayment of the loans, but unfortunately left no profit to build up a permanent fund. However the project demonstrated the viability of such projects, and formed the basis for future growth of Hearth's revolving fund.

Donegall Street

201-205 Donegall Street, Belfast remained to deteriorate after the neighbouring Georgian buildings were demolished in 1990 for road widening. Once considered surplus to Roads Service requirements the terrace was listed and Hearth attempted to move in to restore. Before Hearth could acquire the terrace the back wall of 201 collapsed due to timber decay, putting the whole terrace at risk. Hearth immediately put up a new temporary back wall, and replaced joists in the back rooms to stabilise the building. Hearth Housing Association successfully provided two three-bedroom homes from the old Georgian terrace.

The terrace at Donegall Street. Photo by Gary Potter.

Curry’s Cottage

The Cottage at 9 Derryhooly Road in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh is one of a small number of cruck cottages still surviving in the province. It was built around 300 years ago according to tree ring analysis of the crucks. Externally the cottage is a simple single-storey dwelling with whitewashed mud walls, curved at the corners, small windows, a half-door, and a deep overhanging hipped thatched roof. Restoring the old cottage involved stabilisation of the severely bulging mud walls and repairs to the ancient roof timbers, along with new services. Hearth has also built an annex alongside to provide kitchen and bathroom facilities along with a bedroom. The Hearth Revolving Fund project was awarded a good scheme award by Environment & Heritage Service in 2002.

Curry's Cottage. Photo by Hearth.

High Street, Comber

28-50 High Street in Comber, Co Down is situated on the sloping street leading from the central square. The terrace is almost entirely devoid of 'architectural features' and the simplicity of these houses is very characteristic of vernacular building in Ulster, and has rarely survived in an urban context, explained Marcus. Built around 1820 and facing demolition in the 1980’s Hearth offered to carry out the improvement of the property alongside new development by the Housing Executive.

A section of the terrace on High Street, Comber.
Photo by Hearth.

Turnly’s Tower

The Curfew Tower in Cushendall, Co Antrim was constructed around 1820 as a five storey tower, using local pinkish red sandstone, with an accompanying walled garden. Although there are various stories providing an explanation as to why it was built, it seems most likely that it was simply a folly at the centre of the village. Hearth Revolving Fund successfully restored the tower and added a discreet extension at ground floor for use as short-term artist accommodation.

Turnly's Tower. Photo by Hearth.


37-39 Court Street, Newtownards were to be demolished by the Housing Executive in the 1980’s but again Hearth Housing Association managed to step in and prevent the 19th Century terraced houses being lost. Hearth was able to obtain housing association funding for the restoration of the two houses and conversion of the rear stable block into flats.

37 - 39 Court Street, Newtownards.
Photo by John D McDonald on

Hamilton Terrace

36-46 Hamilton Street, Belfast was yet another terrace marked for demolition by the Housing Executive in the 1980’s. Again Hearth acquired the properties and prevented the loss of a fine Georgian terrace. Hearth initially did not have the funds to take on the terrace, and fully restore, through the Revolving Fund. So concerned were Hearth that the terrace would be lost they acquired the properties and carefully phased the restoration to allow for funding to be found. 

Hamilton Street terrace. Image from Google Streetview.

When the houses were put on the market, they were auctioned, with a discount offered to local families. Half the houses went to locals and number.42 was bought by the very same family who lived in it from 1902 till they had been moved out by the Housing Executive.

Castle Upton

The Gatelodge at Castle Upton on the Antrim Road in Templepatrick is discreetly hidden with the walls of the estate and only just recognisable by the narrow slit windows near the gateway and the chimney disguised as a turret. Hearth Housing Association extended in rubble basalt to match the original lodge, and window openings were framed in cast stone with exposed aggregate to match the weathered granite of the original windows.

Castle Upton Gate Lodge. Photo by Hearth.

Alexandra Park

The Alexandra Park Gate Lodge in Belfast was burnt out in an arson attack around 1990 as the park suffered high levels of vandalism. Hearth Revolving Fund acquired the Gate Lodge from the City Council and found the structure generally sound, but the stonework had been repointed in hard mortar at some stage, leading to deterioration of some of the soft Scrabo stonework. Restoration of the building involved new slate roofs and cast iron gutters, and new windows and doors throughout. A considerable amount of stone was replaced where the original material was badly spalled or damaged by the fire and ongoing deterioration. The end result was a two-bedroom home.

The restored Alexandra Gate Lodge. Photo by Hearth.

Irish Street

27-31 Irish Street, Downpatrick is located on one of the three historic streets that made up the mediaeval core of Downpatrick. 27-31 are likely to date from about 1780-1800. , and the shops would have been inserted later as the town became more commercial. In many Ulster towns the upper floors of buildings in commercial streets are vacant, and Hearth undertook this project in order to encourage better use of the buildings in the centre of Downpatrick. 

Irish Street, Downpatrick. Photo by Hearth.

During restoration the three houses were combined into two, and the three shops were altered to provide two. This project was a unique joint initiative between Heart Housing Association and Hearth Revolving Fund.

Woodbine Cottage

130-132 Antrim Road was built around 1850 as a free-standing cottage on the route north out of Belfast. Marcus Patton describes the house as “two-storey and double-fronted, but modest in scale. It is finished with coursed smooth-render, with pilasters at each corner and moulded architraves to windows on the front elevation.” 

Woodbine Cottage. Photo by Hearth.

Following years of neglect and vandalism the house was the victim of an arson attack in 1995. Whilst the actual fire damage was relatively small, the risk of further arson leading to more extensive damage was very high. Hearth reached an agreement with the owner to take over the building and was able to start restoration work in advance of full legal ownership. Following the restoration by the Revolving Fund the house was sold to Hearth Housing Association and subsequently the tenant has chosen to purchase the property from Hearth. 

Building Preservation Trusts and the Townscape Heritage Initiative - Perfect Partnership or Marriage of Convenience?

Alan Clarke, Acting City Centre Manager of Lisburn City Centre Management presented an overview of Bridge Street Townscape Heritage Initiative and explained the role of Lisburn Buildings Preservation Trust and the THI Partnership.

Bridge Street, Lisburn (c.1930). Photo from

Bridge Street in Lisburn was constructed to link the Market Square with the River Lagan. The upper end of Bridge Street dates from the early 18th Century rebuilding of Lisburn after the Great Fire of 1707. The north side of the lower section of Bridge Street dates from the mid 19th Century. None of the buildings on Bridge Street are listed but their contribution to the urban fabric and sense of place and their historic significance is obvious. Unfortunately in the 1990’s the buildings were at risk of being lost due to years of neglect. Bridge Street saw vacancy levels of 60 - 70% so the decay and dereliction was highly visible to visitors of Lisburn entering from the M1 Motorway.

In 2000, Lisburn City Centre Management (LCCM) presented a development strategy for Lisburn Historic Quarter (roughly the area of Lisburn Conservation Area) which highlighted Bridge Street as a “fine example of the old Lisburn”. Coinciding with this the opportunity arose to apply for Heritage Lottery funding and so the Bridge Street THI Partnership was formed to retain and restore Bridge Street as a Townscape Heritage Initiative. The project has continued under the guidance of LCCM.

Alan Clarke, Acting City Centre Manager, Lisburn
City Centre Management. Credit: John Kelly.

The Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) is a grant aid programme aimed at repairing and regenerating the historic environment in towns throughout the UK. There are 226 active or completed schemes, administered by the Heritage Lottery Fund, throughout the UK totalling £197m. In Northern Ireland there are 22 active or completed schemes representing a commitment of £16.5m.

19 Bridge Street, Lisburn. Before and after the THI improvements.

In Northern Ireland, unlike other areas of the UK, Councils do not manage the schemes directly as they have no heritage remit. To manage the Lisburn scheme the Bridge Street THI Partnership was established. The Partnership manages the main pool of funds provided by partners and identifies buildings suitable for grants of between £500,000 and £2m which they then award to property owners who wish to get involved. Funding partners include the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Townscape Heritage Initiative, Lisburn City Council and DoE Planning. Bridge Street THI Partnership secured its first HLF grant of £700,000 in July 2000, and secured a further £955,000 in August 2006.

© Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The HLF THI funding was complimented by grant funding from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive who piloted the LOTS (Living Over The Shops) initiative at Bridge Street. The LOTS initiative helped to provide housing in vacant floor space above commercial premises along Bridge Street with financial grant assistance and associated tax incentives. The Bridge Street THI Partnership, with the LOTS scheme, successfully provided affordable private rented accommodation and provided Bridge Street with its first new residential units in 30 years.

To support and compliment the Bridge Street THI Partnership, LCCM established Lisburn Preservation Trust as a revolving Buildings Preservation Trust. The Bridge Street THI Partnership and Lisburn Preservation Trust could share the professional and administrative support provided by LCCM. The Preservation Trust could also demonstrate and sell Bridge Street THI scheme to private property owners.

“A Building Preservation Trust is a developer with a conscience and a developer with a community interest.”
Alan Clarke, Acting City Centre Manager of Lisburn City Centre Management.

How successful was the Bridge Street THI under the direction of LCCM, Bridge Street THI Partnership and Lisburn Buildings Preservation Trust Ltd? Under THI Phase One £2.6m was invested and 18 projects have been completed to date. Of these schemes half of the total investment comes from the THI Partnership funders and the other half comes from property owner contributions. A further 20 projects have secured planning permission and 12 are currently under construction. 

31-33 Bridge Street, Lisburn after THI improvements.

31-33 Bridge Street was described by the previous owner as a “vertical pile of rubble”. Due to the work of Lisburn Buildings Preservation Trust the historically valuable building was restored and extended to provide a ground floor commercial unit and two, two bedroom apartments above. The Preservation Trust later sold the building and the investor successfully fully leased the building.

Lisburn Buildings Preservation Trust Ltd as a revolving trust follows a model of acquiring, restoring, renovating and improving a property. Then managing and eventually selling, leasing to recoup funds for the next project. Throughout this process the Trust also seeks to raise the awareness of the public of the local historic building stock. The Trust performed well with the Bridge Street THI Partnership, but where now, asks Alan, for the Lisburn Buildings Preservation Trust?

Ultimately a divorce from LCCM is inevitable and a return to the core objectives will occur. Alan highlighted that in 2011 the Trust has identified three target projects to include a redundant school, church and rail halt. The dilemma for these properties is whether they should stay in state care or become foster children to the Trust. As the buildings are not part of the local authority or governments core functions there is no funding or resources to care for and maintain them. Alan suggested that:
“…now is the time for the Buildings Preservation Trust movement to be acknowledged and resourced as a partner to help address this increasing problem of government buildings falling out of use with no future use secured. Building Preservation Trust’s fit the localism agenda as strategic stakeholders and local partners”

Keynote Address: The Rt. Hon. Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland

The Rt. Hon. Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland presented an overview of the Big Society agenda and visions and illustrated how organisations like Building Preservation Trusts can benefit from it and, contribute to it.

The Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Left)
with David Trevor-Smith Chairman, and Primrose Wilson Chair of
The Follies Trust and APT (NI).
Photo credit: Northern Ireland Office.

The following is a transcript of the speech delivered by the Minister of State:

What is the Big Society?

The Big Society is not new; it’s all about doing what we have done for centuries and what already works best - getting local people making local decisions that affect their local neighbourhood.

The Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP Minister of State for
Northern Ireland . Credit: John Kelly.

And you are all a perfect example of that - you have decided not to let buildings that are precious to your localities get shut down or bulldozed, be that the Gasworks in Carrickfergus in Co Antrim or the Water Mill in Pakenham in Suffolk you, as individuals and as organisations, decided to get involved and do something about it.

And the fact that there are so many of you here today suggests that there has been a lot of preservation going on! I am also sure that you, like me, were delighted to see the National Trust break the four million member mark for the first time. I am glad to be a member of that great organisation and my wife and I would both recommend their rental cottages and indeed those of the Landmark Trust who are represented here today.

And I should like to add on a personal note that I consider the late Sir John Smith the founder of the Landmark Trust one of the heroes of the 20th Century.

So the Big Society is about putting more power into people's hands - it is a massive transfer of power from Whitehall to local communities that has only just begun.

And there are three pillars to this agenda:

The first is decreasing the power of Whitehall and bringing decision making much closer to the people by giving local councils and neighbourhoods more power to take decisions and shape their area.

So planning reforms will replace the old top-down planning system with real power for neighbourhoods to decide the future of their area - and that should give preservation trusts like yourself more of a voice when it comes to keeping safe the buildings or follies that give your local neighbourhoods their particular character.

I need to say at this point that because of the devolution settlements in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, many of these measures will apply only to England but my hunch is that when they catch on in England, there will be a lot of pressure put on the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow suit.

The second of these three pillars will be reforming and opening up public services: enabling charities, social enterprises, private companies and employee-owned co-operatives to compete to offer the community local high quality services in place of larger organisations.

This means that workers will be given a new right to form employee-owned co-operatives and bid to take over the services they deliver. Millions of public sector workers could become their own boss and deliver better services as a result.

And if groups can prove that they can deliver better services and meet all the proper requirements then the funding will be diverted to enable the group to deliver the service. It’s as simple as that. 

The Government will de-ringfence more than £1 billion of grants to local authorities by the end of this financial year with the aim of promoting greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups and all Local Authorities in England will be required to publish information on all spending over £500 locally, opening up a vast swathe of information about the way that money flows locally.

The Big Society challenges everyone to think and act differently. It challenges citizens to think about the personal and social consequences of their behaviour; it challenges communities to take ownership of an area and find ways to positively transform it; and it challenges the state to ask: "why can this not be done by citizens themselves, or voluntary, community and social enterprises?"

One particular measure that might be of interest to preservation trusts is a measure in the Localism Bill which is currently going through Parliament. We have introduced a Right to give local community organisations a fairer chance to save assets which are important to community life.

While this could be the village shop or the last remaining pub in the village, it could also be the art deco cinema or a treasured Carnegie library worth preserving for future generations if they are also judged to further the social well being of the community.

This provision includes private as well as public assets. The aim - and a not uncontroversial one is to give communities the ability to identify assets of community value and, when the owner decides to sell a listed asset, there will be a window to give local community groups more time to prepare to bid to buy them.

The third pillar of the Big Society is encouraging Social Action. We were all horrified to see the recent riots across England and if ever there was a time to give teenagers a sense of belonging and purpose it is now.

The National Citizens Service will help with that and I am in discussions with ministerial colleagues for a Northern Ireland version tailored to the different needs of the province.

The scheme helps young people from different backgrounds and different communities mix and develop skills that are completed in a residential setting away from home.

They complete tasks, which are personally challenging, typically in the form of an outdoor challenge experience, and focused on personal and social development

They also design a social action task in consultation with the local community that they return to help deliver in the community they have come from and they complete their National Citizens Service with a further period of 30 hours of social action on a part-time basis.

We are also funding the training of 5,000 Community Organisers across England who will have strong understanding of local needs and will catalyse social action by neighbourhood groups.

And of course volunteering - we want to encourage more volunteers because volunteering is the backbone of contributing to society.

And of course we have to practice what we preach. All ministers in the Coalition government have pledged to give up a day to volunteer in the community. I intend to lead a team of volunteers from my Department between now and Christmas but I am very much open to suggestions as to what we might do so if you have any thoughts please do send them to my office and let me know.

The Big Society Bank

You asked me to speak in particular about the Big Society Bank, Well it’s no longer being called that - it has been renamed the Big Society Capital Group to avoid any confusion with it appearing to be a high street bank which it manifestly is not.

Big Society Capital will be comprised of three separate parts:

The parent company will be named ‘The Big Society Trust’, with the operating company, Big Society Capital Ltd, as its subsidiary, and a separate entity, ‘The Big Society Foundation’, which will be capable of receiving charitable donations to support its work.

Big Society Capital will invest in social investment intermediary organisations across the UK but it will not make grants to individual organisations or charities.

The intermediary organisations will help bring together bodies that need capital, and bodies that have capital and want to invest it. Intermediaries in the social investment market include funds, financial institutions or other organisations that arrange financing for end-user social organisations.

Existing intermediaries are organisations such as Charity Bank, the Key Project and London Rebuilding Society are others. We hope that there will be more in due course.

The difference that Big Society Capital will make is that organisations such as yours will gain access to capital at a more competitive rate than you would be able to secure from a high street bank.

Big Society Capital is being funded in two ways - £ 400m will come from Dormant Bank accounts and £200m from money, what we call Merlin money which the four main UK banks are contributing. It has no shareholders and will act independently of government; it will act transparently and be self sufficient.

More importantly it will act like a wholesale bank and not invest in front line activities nor make grants. Rather it will support social enterprise through intermediaries. By operating like this it will not distort the market and undermine existing operators but it will offer very favourable terms.

What the Government is doing in respect of Charity Reform?
I know from experience that many charities and small organisations like yourselves are seeing smaller donations inevitably as a result of the economic downturn so I wanted to conclude my comments by setting out what the Government’s policy is towards encouraging charitable giving. Many of you will have seen the Giving White paper which sets out our commitment to empower and encourage more people to get involved in charitable giving.

Firstly we intend to make it easier and more convenient for people to give to charity as part of their every day lives. We want to weave the ability to donate to good causes seamlessly into the fabric of everyday life.

Technology, which is an increasing part of all our lives, can play an important role here in making it much much easier to give. The White Paper highlights a number of innovative schemes such as:
  • ATM giving which allows people to give at the touch of a button when using a cash machine 
  • “Round the Pound” which allows the balance in rounding up at the till when paying for shopping in some large retailers to go to charity 
  • The JustTextGiving scheme which allows spontaneous giving to charities of all sizes by mobile phone and is free to set up. Each charity can get an individual number to receive donations by text. 
  • There is also the phone app “DoSomeGood” which allows people to donate their time, either to gather information required by charities or to volunteer time to help. 
  • Another initiative, to make it easier for those with higher disposable income to give, the Government has committed over £700,000 to help develop the Philanthropy UK service. 
  • This service offers free and impartial advice to aspiring philanthropists and connects wealthy people with charities which need their support. 

But we want to make giving to charity more compelling and make it the social norm. For those of us that already give to charity the Government wants to look at ways of increasing what we give and for those not yet giving we want to encourage them to do so.

The last Budget introduced Inheritance tax changes so that there will be a reduction in inheritance tax rates for those who leave 10% or more of their estate to charity.

Payroll giving is a great way to give to charity but in the UK payroll giving is only about 3% - many people are simply unaware of how easy it is to do and how cost effective it is for the recipient charity. We want to change that and raise the profile of payroll giving. So we are sponsoring the National Payroll Giving Awards, which last year was won by Police Service of Northern Ireland.

So instead of thinking ‘why should I give’ we need people to think ‘how much should I give?’.
In this 24 hour society the most precious thing we have to offer is our time. We all know great examples of individuals like yourselves who give significant amounts of their time to benefit their communities. There are also many examples of businesses backing volunteering and encouraging their staff to do likewise but we want to see more. We want people to see volunteering as the social norm and the responsible thing to do.

One exciting initiative announced in the Giving White paper to encourage giving is the ‘Spice’ initiative which gives an opportunity to provide volunteers with a ‘thank you’ in the form of a voucher or a discount with local businesses for doing good work for the community. We are investing £400,000 to trial ‘Spice’ in England.

Finally we want to support those charitable organisations which provide services that benefit our communities. That is why we announced in the 2011 Budget a number of important tax incentives and cuts to red tape which will see the removal of paperwork for gift aid donations up to £5,000.

These are simple changes but ones which will make a huge difference especially to smaller charities like yourselves.

The great civic buildings in our nations cities; Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool, Belfast and others were built at a time of confidence. They demonstrate pride - the pride of the local community; pride in their heritage; pride in their industries; pride in their civic institutions and most important pride in their local communities. We want to re-ignite this pride and this confidence.

Clearly Central Government can give a lead but it cannot and indeed should not be expected to deliver on its own. It is to organisations such as yours to which we should look and I believe your role in delivering in this area is vital but has in the past largely gone unrecognised.

Ladies and gentlemen my time is up - I am happy to take questions and if I or my officials don’t know the answer we shall get back to you.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today and I hope that the remainder of your conference and your stay in Northern Ireland is successful and enjoyable.


The Restoration of SS Nomadic, Tender Boat for RMS Titanic

Bryan Patterson, Trustee of the Nomadic Trust is an architect by profession and past Chairman of the Belfast Titanic Society. Bryan presented an overview of the work being progressed by the Nomadic Trust to restore the last surviving link to the famous RMS Titanic and the White Star Line collection.

The Nomadic Charitable Trust was established in late 2006 by the Department for Social Development (DSD) to coordinate fundraising efforts to restore the SS Nomadic. 

"To restore the SS Nomadic and to make her accessible to the public, to ensure she can play a key role in the ongoing celebration of the Titanic, ensure a lasting legacy to celebrate our maritime and industrial heritage and as a catalyst for tourism, social and economic development".
Nomadic Trust Aims and Objectives.

SS Nomadic was built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast and launched on 25 April 1911 to be delivered to the White Star Line in May. She is 233.6 ft long - 37.3 ft wide with a speed of 12 knots. Her gross tonnage is 1273. The Nomadic (like her sister, the Traffic) was built to ferry passengers and freight to and from the White Star Liners calling at Cherbourg. 

SS Nomadic. Photo from

By the time the Nomadic first served the RMS Titanic she had already served Olympic on each of her twelve Cherbourg visits. However this would be the one and only time Nomadic would serve the Titanic. Following the sinking of Titanic the Nomadic continued to serve the Olympic and other White Star liners calling at Cherbourg.

During WWI the Nomadic ferried American soldiers around the French coast. In 1927 White Star Line sold the Nomadic to the Compagnie Cherbourgeoise de Transborde-ment (CCT) who subsequently sold her to the Société Cherbourgeoise de Remorquage et de Sauvetage in 1934. Now called Ingenieur Minard, the Nomadic returned to war duty during WWII to evacuate British soldiers from Le Havre and Brest. When Germany occupied France she returned to England where she served as a coastal patrol vessel and minelayer until returning to Cherbourg in 1945 where she continued to serve luxury cruise liners until November 1968.

SS Nomadic pictured during her time as a troop carrier.
Photo from

Nomadic was purchased with intentions of converting her to a floating restaurant. Following a change of ownership after some years laying idle the Nomadic was turned into a floating restaurant on the river Sienne in Paris.

As her life as a floating restaurant came to an end a campaign was launched from Belfast to bring the Nomadic back to where she was constructed. The successful campaign led to the Department for Social Development purchasing the Nomadic for 250,001 Euro on 26th January 2006. Nomadic returned to Belfast in July 2006.

SS Nomadic returning to Belfast on the AMT Mariner Barge.
Photo from

From October 2006 the Nomadic Charitable Trust was tasked by the Department for Social Development with restoring the ship and developing her into a tourist and cultural attraction. Nomadics unique links to Belfast, the White Star Line and RMS Titanic make her the perfect visitor attraction to promote the maritime and industrial heritage of one of the great industrial cities of the 19th and 20th Century - Belfast. 

SS Nomadic arriving at Queen's Quay, Belfast in July 2006.
Photo from

The Nomadic now sits in her new home - the Hamilton Dock - thanks to the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Titanic Quarter who funded the refurbishment of the dock.

SS Nomadic and the Hamilton Dock are a vital element
of the overall Titanic Signature Project.
Image from Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

At the beginning of 2011, 100 years after she was constructed, Harland & Wolff (the shipyard which built her and the Titanic) was awarded a £2m contract to carry out restoration work on the Nomadic’s superstructure and steelwork. The Special EU Programmes Body awarded £2.27 million of PEACE III funding to the restoration of SS Nomadic. Commenting at the time, Denis Rooney, Chairman of the Nomadic Charitable Trust said:
“The superstructure and steelwork contract will ensure that the vessel will be ready to accommodate the key fit out stage of the restoration programme, which will commence immediately after this contract is complete.”

By November 2011 the majority of the components had been manufactured by Harland & Wolff and work was intensifying to install the new deckhouse modules. The funnel is to be installed in December along with doors, portlights and other detailing.

Harland & Wolff working on SS Nomadic with the Titanic Belfast
visitor experience under construction in the background.
Photo by Gary Potter.

From early 2012 attention will focus on the internal restoration and fit-out and the surrounding dock area. The planning and scheduled monument applications are still to be approved (December 2011) but should be confirmed soon. The Trust hope to have the Nomadic open to the public by the end of 2012. In July 2011 the Heritage Lottery Fund confirmed a £3.25m contribution to this work, which will see “the Nomadic and Hamilton Graving Dock become a learning and interpretative space which will provide an authentic experience of life and work in booming industrial Belfast in 1911.”

The second phase will provide public access to Hamilton Graving Dock for the first time, enabling visitors to explore the quay as a working 1911 dockside. The original Pump House (currently hidden behind a layer of concrete), which dates to 1867, will be also be restored to house a retail, gift and interpretative space.

SS NOMADIC is unique in that she is the last surviving vessel of the world famous White Star Line. She made history on 10 April 1910 when she brought passengers from Cherbourg to RMS TITANIC on her ill-fated maiden voyage. As we approach the century of the world’s most famous liner, she is a reminder of the great ship. Over the years, she also carried many renowned personalities to trans-Atlantic liners. 
On 25 April 1917, NOMADIC was mobilised to assist in the First World War effort. She was directed to Brest where she ferried US troops from the troop carriers to the shore. 
Today she is still in remarkable condition despite changes that occurred during the remarkable and varied career. Many of her original fittings remain. 

Consarc are carrying out the detailed design work for the project and are carefully considering original plans and drawings to sensitively restore the vessel. Where possible original panelling and features will be retained and reused and the restored interior will highlight the hierarchy of travel during the period.

Click here to view the planning application for the
"restoration of former graving dock, display of former caisson gate and SS Nomadic ship in permanently dry dock.  Ship to include interpretation education space, café & entertainments licence.  Proposals to dock side to include repair to existing surfaces and new surface materials, new lighting, boundary railings and dock edge railings as well as restoration and extension of existing pump house and installation of bridge and gangways."

The lower deck will house a dedicated education and learning space for local schools and community groups and the People’s Museum, which will accommodate a programme of events and activities such as lectures, talks and exhibitions.

The Nomadic Trust are endeavoring to achieve a sensitive restoration whilst also providing a "highly entertaining, competitive and collaborative" attraction. The Trust are also aware of the wider impact that the Nomadic will have - "including regeneration benefits, a stimulus for economic growth and a vehicle for stimulating community understanding and expression". The Trust are determined to create a legacy and sustainability is at the heart of their efforts to restore the Nomadic.

For more information: Conservation Management Plan for SS Nomadic

The UK Association of Building Preservations Trust's next conference will be held in East Anglia. For more information visit:

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