Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre
Site: 28 Plough Hill, Caistor
Type: Community Building
Location: Caistor, Lincolnshire
Owner: Lincolnshire County Council
Lessee: Caistor Arts & Heritage Centre (BIG) Ltd
Caistor is a small market town with a historic town centre. Over a period of time, however, a significant number of properties in the town centre fell into disrepair as people shopped and socialised elsewhere. In response to this the community came together and formed the Caistor Development Partnership in 2001 and the Caistor Development Trust in 2002. Together these organisations have worked tirelessly to regenerate the town centre ever since. By working strategically, public agencies and community organisations have produced significant results.
The community worked with West Lindsey District Council and Groundwork Lincolnshire on a Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI). In October 2002 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded the THI project a stage one pass. They indicated that a grant of up to £750,000 would be available on the basis that it comprised no more than 50% of the value of the THI common fund. As a result a total of £1.625m was levered from HLF, the European Region Development Fund Objective 2, Lincolnshire Enterprise/East Midlands Development Agency Single Programme, Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) and West Lindsey District Council.
Work commenced in 2005, with grants being awarded to a substantial number of the 105 properties that had been identified for renovation as part of the town centre regeneration. In 2008, after extensive public consultation, the Caistor Town Plan Steering Group established the need for a cultural and heritage centre.
28 Plough Hill had a number of community uses, starting out as a Primitive Methodist Church in 1867 and being converted into a youth facility almost 100 years later, before closing in 2005. The community took the opportunity to work with LCC in 2010 and negotiated a 25-year lease at a peppercorn rent.
When it was a youth club, 28 Plough Hill had been converted by LCC to a single-storey building, but it was redesigned on two levels to maximise space and usage possibilities. This resulted in a building with a flexible exhibition/meeting space, library and café. The project received a Civic Award in 2011 and won an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects – one of only three buildings in the East Midlands to do so in recognition of its architectural excellence, designed by local architect Jonathan Hendry.
A successful model
While the centre is not a listed building, it is in a conservation area. The centre is now in its fourth year of operation and has progressed well. It employs a centre manager and has over 60 volunteers who help to run the café and library and assist in a wide range of activities.
The café is proving very successful and provides an income for the project as well as providing a high-quality experience, attractive environment and good products. The centre is open seven days a week, and is looking to expand the café space to allow greater income-generation opportunities throughout the year. The board of directors is responsive to change and looks at ways of both utilising the space and maximising income opportunities.
28 Plough Hill came about under some unique circumstances. It was funded by the Big Lottery Fund through Village SOS, which was a joint initiative with the BBC. As a result, the Caistor Arts & Heritage Centre (BIG) Ltd was set up as a not-for-profit social enterprise and received £430,000 of funding. The BBC filmed the project and created a one-hour documentary which was broadcast on BBC One prime-time TV in August 2011.
Lottery funding was key to the timing of the development, which in turn enabled the asset transfer. The centre is constantly looking for cost savings and income generation such as solar panels and utilising some additional space at the back of the building. They also continue to access smaller funds to develop the centre and assist in its continued viability.