Seaham set to receive £1.6m boost to restore town’s rich heritage

A project which aims to restore and protect the rich heritage of a coastal County Durham town is set to receive a £1.6 million boost.

Durham County Council has secured the £1.6 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Seaham Townscape Heritage Project.

The three-year project focuses on the heritage-led regeneration of historic properties in Church Street by offering grants to property owners or occupiers for works to repair and reinstate traditional features, and to provide access to currently inaccessible vacant upper floor spaces.

This will include work to reverse previous architectural changes that have been detrimental to the town’s character, while public spaces will be upgraded and decluttered to make them more attractive and accessible. Efforts will also focus on bringing vacant buildings back into use and developing and sustaining business confidence in the area.

As part of the county council’s ongoing investment in Seaham, the funding, made possible by National Lottery players, will provide improvements to increase the connectivity of the town, and provide better interpretation of its historic features, such as the Rainton Railway Line. The project will also offer a range of activities and training opportunities for local people to improve the wider understanding and enjoyment of the town’s heritage.

Partnership funding totalling £370,000 has been committed to the project so far by the local authority, and a further £217,000 investment is expected over the three-year duration of the project from town centre property owners.

In summer 2018, the county council was awarded a development grant of £63,342 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which assisted the county council in working with local stakeholders to prepare detailed proposals for the final submission. The funding was utilised to undertake a full review of the Seaham Conservation Area and to formally adopt a New Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Management Plan for the town.

David Renwick, Director, England: North, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “In a year where we have heard that seaside towns across England have been neglected, we are delighted that National Lottery funding will look to buck that trend in awarding a grant to the Seaham Townscape Heritage Project.

“Here at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are committed to investing in Heritage at Risk, and we are buoyed by the fact that our funding will go towards regenerating the abundance of heritage buildings and structures within the Seaham Conservation Area to be enjoyed by the community.”

Cllr Kevin Shaw, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: “We are thrilled to have received this grant and are delighted at the tremendous support shown for the project by the community. I would like to thank everyone for being involved and helping us to shape our successful bid.

“This funding will enable us to build on our success in driving forwards the massive improvements in the heart of Seaham, by helping us to preserve and protect Church Streets historic buildings.

“We also continue to work on solutions for the adjacent area which will benefit our whole community.”

The heritage project sits alongside the council’s approach to towns and villages regeneration, supporting and adapting to changes impacting on our town centres. This includes organising a new food festival which attracted almost 15,000 people to the town and working to deal with derelict buildings in the area.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “As well as celebrating Seaham’s fascinating heritage, the initiative aims to provide an economic boost to the coastal town, by working to attract more businesses and increase the number of visitors to the area.”

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