£4.5m National Lottery bid submitted for ‘transformational’ Harris redevelopment

Cllr Kelly outside the Harris

The ambitious plan to rejuvenate Preston’s iconic Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library has today reached a major milestone.

A joint team from Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council have submitted a bid to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for £4.5m to deliver the scheme.

If approved, the National Lottery bid will be the final piece of funding needed for the £10.02m #HarrisYourPlace scheme to preserve the Grade -listed building and create a world-class cultural attraction and community hub.

The project will see the Harris become the UK’s first blended museum, art gallery and library, while also making the building more accessible and welcoming an additional 100,000 visitors per year.

Works will return the building to its original splendour through the removal of unsympathetic interventions, and also improve conditions in which precious collections are stored and displayed.

Plans for the scheme, which has been described by councillors as “transformational” have taken shape thanks to local people, community groups and partners who gave their views in a consultation during the Summer.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund will now consider the plans and supporting evidence. It has until the end of March 2021 to make a final decision as to whether the Harris should receive the £4.5m Round 2 funding to deliver the project.

Cllr Peter Kelly, cabinet member for leisure and culture at Preston City Council, said: “The Harris is at the heart of Preston – geographically and figuratively – which is why this is a cornerstone project for our city.

“If approved, the works will be transformational for Preston – not only conserving this precious building and creating a cultural attraction fit for the future – but also unlocking potential in the Harris Quarter and the city as a whole.

“#HarrisYourPlace is a huge opportunity to attract investment, create jobs and bring more visitors to local shops and services. With the fantastic support of partners, fellow funders, local people and community groups, it’s an opportunity we are grasping with both hands.”

A planning application for alterations to the building was submitted in October. The proposals include much-needed conservation works to reveal hidden original architectural details and tackle the leaking roof and damp basement which pose a threat to the Harris’s collections.

Proposed works will also make the building more welcoming to its half a million annual visitors, with an enhanced entrance on Lancaster Road, a new internal lift and staircase and Changing Places facility.

The suggested alterations will mean that the Harris’s extensive collections of paintings, textiles, sculpture, photography, historic books and digital art – many of which are internationally significant – can be displayed in stunningly upgraded spaces.

Cllr Peter Buckley, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “Cultural regeneration has a huge part to play in Lancashire’s continued prosperity, particularly post-COVID.

“This bid to The National Lottery Heritage Fund shows the potential that outstanding cultural assets like the Harris have to draw in support and investment from across the country.

“Congratulations to all involved in the bid for putting together such an ambitious plan for the Harris and the community it serves.”

The concepts for #HarrisYourPlace have been put together following a successful bid for Round 1 development-phase support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to draw up the project and planning application.

If successful, the £4.5m delivery-phase funding will be added to the £3.6m already in place from Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council, the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, Arts Council England and local supporters including members of the public and the Friends of the Harris charity, all forming part of the Harris’s ongoing fundraising campaign.

The project will start in Spring 2021 if both the planning application and The National Lottery Heritage Fund support to deliver the project are approved.

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