WCC heritage grants

You may have seen the current issue of City Life (13-19 Jan 08). Page 3 presents some ideas the council has regarding saving money given the “credit crunch.” At the top of the third column is “Ending the heritage grants scheme for building owners.” My understanding is that this is one of the few pots of money that owners of heritage building can get support for maintaining their buildings. I guess it’s some acknowledgement (in theory at least) that heritage is a communally inflicted responsibility.

In a past Arch Centre submission we have already been critical about the plans the WCC had then to reduce the amount available. Their argument was that there had been a low uptake from building owners. Our position was that the low uptake was an issue suggesting the need for greater promotion of the fund, not cutting it.

I haven’t had a chance to read the finer detail of the current proposal, but the suggestion (which is accompanied in the article by others such as “Prioritising maintenance for [council] gardens and beaches so less is spent on mowing, maintenance and garden beds”), seems naive to me regarding the potential long-term effects of retaining and improving council financial support for heritage buildings versus reducing it. As we know, looking around Wellington, once a worthy building is gone the odds are against something better replacing it.


10 responses to “WCC heritage grants”

  1. I believe that the grant scheme (for one reason and another) was seriously undersubscribed anyway, thus the cut would really be on paper only (not that that should be taken as any sort of excuse…).

  2. Having known a couple of people who initially were keen on applying for the fund, the amount of money available was such a derisory amount that it really didn’t go any way towards helping them reach their goal of building restoration. There needs to be a better way. Certainly a far higher amount in the fund would help.

  3. Hmm – there’s a wicked catch-22 in there; if the derisory amount became oversubscribed, the Council might have some impetus to increase it. As it stands, it looks as though there is so little interest that they might as well not offer it. Anyways – use it or lose it seems to be the Council’s position…

    I think too, that building owners should be looking to the fund as a supplement rather than than a project budget, as they stand to gain (perhaps more) than the general community that pays the WCC proportion.

  4. I appreciate the complexities, difficulties – call them what you will – but surely scrapping it altogether is a bit extreme. Perhaps the aim of it needs to be rethought. An assistance fund is a good idea, but perhaps something with a greater public recognition factor is needed.

  5. It seems to me that there is a massive clash between what the council wants to do (ie save millions) and what it is prepared to do (ie cut paltry amounts and just save thousands). What would be needed, surely, is for there to be a massive huge swinging cut through some part of the public bill. Surely one thing that could be looked at, perhaps should be looked at, is to cut the amount of streetlighting in Wellington. We have lights on from dusk until dawn, and all it does is keep people awake, and confuse the birdlife. How about just switching all streetlights off at midnight? Save millions in power consumption. And it’ll stop burglars sneaking about – they’ll have to carry a torch, and they’ll stand out for miles.

  6. ?? You’re kidding right? While you might well be tucked up in bed by sundown, there is plenty of legitimate activity on the streets of our fair city, the safety of which would be somewhat compromised by plunging the city into darkness – mind you, if you combined your idea with a midnight-dawn curfew, you might just be on to something…

  7. Damn fine idea that curfew thing stop those hoons on cambridge kent terrace so cut down on drink driving as well and may as well get the TV to go off at 10pm as well. All decent people will be tucked in bed by then anyway.

  8. As a house owner of a building within a heritage area, I can advise that the grant scheme was used as a carrot by WCC to dissuade owners from countering the listing of their properties, and so this change has the potential to increase the difficulty of getting buildings listed. My understanding at the time of council representations was that the heritage grant was not to fund complete refurbishment but to be used to assist property owners in offsetting the additional cost of either retaining original features or replacing them in a sympathetic manner.

  9. NR has a good point – in which case it is really important that the Grant is not deleted. WCC does precious little for owners of heritage at present, and we shouldn’t squander the little we have at present….

  10. Then I guess we should be encouraging as many people as possible to use it, in order to make a stronger case for its usefulness – n-r, you’d better get the ball rolling…

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