£1.7m Lytham Hall funding blow as Lottery bosses withdraw grant

Lytham Hall project manager Simon Thorpe
Lytham Hall project manager Simon Thorpe
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Restoration work at Lytham Hall has been dealt a shock blow after the Heritage Lottery Fund withdrew a grant of £1.7million.

It means essential work to the exterior and interior of the Grade One‐listed Georgian mansion, originally due to be completed by December 2017, will now have to be postponed even further.

It is deeply disappointing news but we can be proud of all that we have achieved so far and we are determined to finish the restoration

The vital cash grant was turned down by the Lottery after it reviewed a revised application to develop the Grade One Hall and parkland. A spokesman for the Herritage Lottery Fund said the decision was not taken lightly but the organisation concluded that risks identified with the scheme meant it was “not supportable”.

It is believed a key reason for the decision was the delay in match-funding the original Lottery cash.

Lytham Hall project manager Simon Thorpe said: “It is deeply disappointing news but we can be proud of all that we have achieved so far and we are determined to finish the restoration.”

The original restoration scheme, unveiled in 2011, cost £5.9 million but after delays and a reduction in funding from other sources, significant savings had to be found.

This led to a revised application submitted to complete the work which started in earnest in 2013. The grant would have enabled the Heritage Trust North West (HTNW) – which for the past 20 years has been responsible for the hall on behalf of the Lytham Town Trust under a 99 year lease agreement ‐ to undertake the restoration of the hall and enhance its visitor facilities.

Mr Thorpe, who works on behalf of HTNW, said: “We need to take time to review our plans, consider different ideas, and talk to our funding partners. In the meantime its business as usual with the café and parkland open seven days a week and more big events in the calendar.”

The prime aim remains to protect the historic building from further deterioration and also enhance income‐generating activities within the hall and grounds, which are rapidly becoming one of the Fylde Coast’s most popular tourist destinations.

Mr Thorpe added: “The withdrawal of the Lottery Fund support for this project is massively disappointing. We did not secure all the match funding that was envisaged for the original scheme and this has been compounded by the changes in the economic climate.” But Mr Thorpe said there had been three years of restoration work, for which an army of dedicated volunteers, staff and non‐stop fund raisers, should be proud. To date some £1.8m of the original £5.9million budget has been spent, including extensive clearance works on the 78 acres of park grounds and woodlands with the creation of the South Prospect garden, the restoration of the Mount view point and the installation of new paths and drainage.

Lytham Town Trust chairman David Gill said: “It is a huge disappointment and we still don’t fully know the reason why the contract has been cancelled.

“However, it is worth noting where we are today compared with the position 20 years ago.

“Visitor numbers have gone from 2,000 to 30,000 last year, with a huge number of events throughout the summer.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “After being told that Lytham Hall’s lottery funding was in jeopardy I met with the trustees to see what I could do to help.

“Following that meeting I made an urgent call to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to arrange more time for the Lytham Town Trust to try to work through some of the issues which had been raised. However, I received notification last week that the HLF Board of Trustees had rejected an alternative plan for a reduced scheme, while accepting that positive steps had been made to resolve some of the problems.

“Obviously I supported the original successful bid for grant funding so I am extremely disappointed this has happened.”

Sara Hilton, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “The decision to withdraw our support for a project is not taken lightly. While we recognise the historic significance of Lytham Hall and the potential for its restoration and redevelopment, risks identified with the proposed scheme meant that this request was not supportable.

“We understand that this is disappointing news for those involved in the project and partners will need time to review options to take forward a revised scheme”

Lytham Hall is the former ancestral home of the Squires of Lytham, the Clifton family.