Renovation scheme boosts Lake District economy and landscape

A major renovation scheme that gave hundreds of traditional farm buildings across the Lake District a new lease of life has helped keep traditional crafts skills alive as well as preserving the landscape, a study found.

But with many more historical buildings in the Lake District needing repair priorities need to be set for the limited funding available, the study commissioned by Defra and English Heritage concluded.

The Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) scheme, dedicated to areas of national environmental significance threatened by changes to farming practices, saw a £7.8m investment in the Lake District area between 1998 and 2004, with £6.2m coming from Defra and recipients contributing another £1.6m.

The money was used to renovate 650 buildings across the Lake District National Park using traditional methods and materials, helping preserve local craftsmanship skills by employing specialist bricklayers, slate and tile roofers, stonemasons and carpenters.

“This scheme recognises the Lake District being an area strongly shaped by man. Buildings are a strong part of this landscape,” Robert Edwards of ADAS UK, the consultancy firm that produced the report in partnership with the University of Gloucestershire, told edie.

The scheme has been successful in bringing jobs, attracting tourists, helping farmers and preserving the landscape, but in the future more needs to be done to make sure funding goes where it is most needed, the report found.

“These government schemes are publicly funded, so there’s a limited pot of money. In the past it has been easy to get the funding.

“The targeting should be improved, and buildings with historical or cultural importance should get priority for the allocation of funds,” Mr Edwards said.

He added that the agencies involved are acting on these recommendations.

The Lake District ESA scheme demonstrates how interconnected environmental, economic and social factors are, said Andrew Lowe, Conservation Officer at the Lake District National Park:

“Without the ESA, two thirds of the buildings in the scheme would have either become derelict or been repaired to a lower standard not in keeping with the character of the area.

“The ESA has ensured a viable future for nearly 65,000 square metres of historic building floor space, with 92% of the buildings repaired now in productive use and the majority of farmers reporting an improvement in the efficiency of their business as a result.

“As the report shows, the benefits of caring for our historic buildings reach far beyond aesthetic concerns, reinvigorating the social and economic framework of the region.”

Although the ESA grant scheme is no longer in operation, it has been integrated into Defra’s Environmental Stewardship scheme, which allocates grants along similar lines.

The report, entitled A Study of the Social and Economic Benefits of Traditional Farm Building Repair and Re-use in the Lake District ESA, can be accessed on the English Heritage website.

Goska Romanowicz

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