The availability of grants for Conservation Areas ‘at risk’ resulted in a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The purpose is to undertake major work to restore the conservation value of Front Street in Alston. The award of £1.3 million is being augmented with a further £0.4 million from Eden District Council, Alston Moor Parish Council, and the property owners who participate.
All the properties benefitting from the scheme are architecturally important, and lie within Alston’s designated conservation area. Owners pay a proportion of the costs of the work on their properties. Additionally, a programme of events and training opportunities, and work on ‘the public realm’, i.e. the open areas of Front Street, form part of the project.
All the work so far has received great compliments from locals and visitors alike, and has been largely done by local building and craft contractors. One of the important training events was a five-day Conservation Masonry Repair event run by the Scottish Lime Centre, ensuring that eleven local contractors are proficient in working with traditional lime mortars.
The public realm work will be to the area towards the top of the town, known variously as the ‘High Market’ or ‘Potato Market’. It has been a complicated part of the work to arrange, as not all of the area has a known owner and so the legal aspects have taken time to work through. Such are the difficulties of working in an historic area!
The original five-year span of the Project has been extended, after inevitable delays owing to such difficulties as winter weather, closure of Front Street for a series of works, and the time needed to undertake effective surveys and devise plans. Already Front Street is looking more like its old self, and by the end of the Project will be a conservation area to be proud of.