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National Lottery Heritage Fund Supports Heritage in Need

Since 2017 the National Lottery Heritage Fund (formerly called the Heritage Lottery Fund) has gone through numerous changes. From the scrapping of GPoW, a grant specifically for Places of Worship, to the more recent move away from supporting repairs and conservation; it has been a frustrating time for many in the heritage sector, in particular churches.

After an extensive consultation period and a brief pause, the National Lottery Heritage Fund has re-opened for applications and there is good news - the prescriptive outcomes have gone and repairs are back in focus!

Heritage 2033

In 2023 the National Lottery Heritage Fund (aka Heritage Fund) launched a new strategy, Heritage 2033. The aim was to create a more simplified framework, that would be more flexible to the needs of the whole of the heritage sector. 

The strategy centres around four investment principles:

  • saving heritage
  • protecting the environment
  • inclusion, access and participation
  • organisational sustainability

These will guide the decision-making on grants. Applications for funding must take all four principles into account, but the strength of focus, and emphasis on each principle, is for you to decide and demonstrate.  There are no longer any prescriptive outcomes, or a focus on delivering outcomes over outputs.  There is no longer an expectation that a certain % of your project will be devoted to delivering engagement activities.  The focus is no longer on what the Heritage Fund wants, it is now on what each individual applicant needs. 

If there’s something from the past that you care for and want to pass it on to future generations, we want to hear from you.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund

What does this mean for church repair projects?

Saving Heritage is one of the four investment principles and it includes a focus on Heritage at Risk: 

“We will commit funding to protect, conserve and revitalise heritage of all kinds that is in poor condition or at risk of loss, decline, damage, neglect or of being forgotten – ensuring it is valued and better understood.”

Repairs and conservation are now a priority.  In theory, you could apply for support with a project that was 100% repairs, providing you could clearly demonstrate how this would address the other three investment principles. It is, however, worth bearing in mind that:

  1. Competition from other applicants (including churches) is likely to be strong due to a backlog of repair projects.
  2. This is a golden opportunity to get a small amount of funding for some other activities to help your church such as an event to attract new people, training for volunteers, the establishment of a Friend’s group etc…

When considering an application, start by thinking about what your church needs.  Then consider how this meets the investment principles. If all you really need is to fix your building (saving heritage), then make that the primary focus of your project, but carefully consider how you can address the other areas and what opportunities there might be to help your church.

  • saving heritage
  • protecting the environment
  • inclusion, access and participation
  • organisational sustainability

Remember the strength of focus, and emphasis on each principle, is for you to decide and demonstrate.  Do not feel under pressure to do more than you need to do, or more than you can realistically deliver.

What if our church isn’t on the Heritage at Risk Register?

Churches do not need to be on the Heritage at Risk Register, or designated as vulnerable by Historic England, to be eligible for support for repairs.  Quinquennial reports and/or supplementary reports will need to be submitted with an application and these will help the grants panel to identify the need and urgency.  If the grants panel has to prioritise applications, it may use the official designations, just as it may look at geographical spread, but this should in no way deter applicants from applying.  If the repairs aren’t urgent, you might find you need to focus on some of the other investment principles and include other activities. 

Submitting a Project Enquiry or Expression of Interest is the best way to see if your project is eligible and what you might need to do to build a strong case for support.

How much can we apply for?

There are two funding programmes: Grants of £10,000 to £250,000 and Grants of £250,000 to £10 million.

National Lottery Heritage Grants: £10,000 - £250,000

  • No deadlines so you can apply whenever you are ready.
  • Submit a short Project Enquiry to get feedback on your project before applying (this is optional but strongly recommended).  Response is usually within 10 working days.
  • Decisions on applications take approximately eight weeks.
  • Payments are usually made in three stages: 50% in advance, 30% in advance, and then 20% in arrears.
  • You should go out to tender before applying and include a healthy contingency in the project costs.
  • Match funding is not required, grants can be for 100% of the project costs.  However, it is recommended that you consider whether other funders, organisations or people might be able to support your project either through additional cash or non-cash contributions. This will help demonstrate that there is an interest in and commitment to your project. You will need to explain why you are unable to raise cash or non-cash contributions from your own resources or other sources if this is the case. 

National Lottery Heritage Grants: £250,000- £10million

  • You must first submit an Expression of Interest.  The response is usually within 20 working days and you will either be invited to submit a development phase application, or given feedback as to why you are not being invited to apply at this time.
  • Deadlines for development and delivery applications are quarterly
  • Applications are assessed within 12 weeks and then assigned to the next scheduled decision meeting.
  • For grants under £1m, you must contribute at least 5% of your project costs.
  • For grants over £1m, you must contribute at least 10% of your project costs.
  • Payments for development grants under £250,000 are made in three stages: 50% in advance, 30% in advance, and then 20% in arrears.
  • Payments for development grants over £250,000, and all delivery grants, are made in arrears.

Project must not start before a decision is made and the formal Permission to Start is issued.

Budgets must be included in all projects for Publicity and Promotion and Evaluation.  The amount should be proportional to the grant request.

Apply for what you need – for repair projects there is a preference to address all the urgent repairs in one single project.  Where applicable, this should result in the church being removed from the Heritage at Risk Register, the database for vulnerable churches and/or the urgent category on a QI report.  However, phased programmes will still be supported where there is strong justification.  This this could be due to the nature of the repairs, or the capacity of the PCC to manage a large project.

Please Note: This scheme is new and a big change for the Heritage Fund, so it is very much a work in progress.  There is no ‘ideal’ application.  The advice is to focus on what you need and submit a Project Enquiry or Expression of Interest first.  As applications are assessed, advice may be updated by the Heritage Fund and examples of successful applications made available. The Heritage Fund will review and potentially revise the grants scheme every 3 years in order to respond quickly to changing needs across the heritage sector (it previously reviewed every 5 years).

More Information and How to Apply

For more information about the Heritage Fund please visit the website at:

If you’re considering applying, please contact Holly Robinson our Historic Church Buildings Support Officer.  She has years of experience with grant applications to the Heritage Fund (and other organisations) and works closely with the regional Heritage Fund team.  Staff are expecting a large volume of applications for building repair projects, so we want to try to manage applications in order to maximise the chance of success for churches.

Holly is running two zoom sessions to discuss the changes in more detail:

  • Wednesday March 13th, 7:00 - 8:30pm
  • Thursday March 21st, 7:00 - 8:30pm

 Please contact her to book a place –

Page last updated: Tuesday 12th March 2024 3:38 PM
First published on: 11th March 2024
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