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Partnership Scheme in Conservation Areas (PSiCA)

Jointly funded by Historic England and East Suffolk Council, as part of the North Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone programme (HAZ), the Partnership Scheme in Conservation Areas (PSiCA) focuses on the historic High Street of North Lowestoft, which is the main commercial area of the HAZ. The aim is to repair and refurbish historic buildings along the high street, some of which are suffering from physical degradation, vacancy, neglect and inappropriate/unauthorised use.

The scheme will fund repairs to the structure and external fabric of buildings contributing to the historic interest of the area and the reinstatement of architectural features that have been lost from historic buildings.

For more information about the grant scheme, contact our Economic Development and Regeneration Team.

Guide to eligible works

Funding is available for conservation-led repairs and improvements including:

  • reinstating original historic features that have been lost, such as traditional shop fronts and sliding sash windows, where clear evidence exists to inform the historic appearance and details
  • joinery repairs to original doors and windows
  • masonry repairs, indenting with new bricks, repointing in lime mortar
  • re-introducing cast-iron gutters and downpipes, iron railings and/or chimney stacks
  • roof repairs including re-slating/tiling, lead work, timber dormers and fascias
  • traditional signwriting

Grants will not be offered for routine maintenance, redecoration, internal repairs or works that involve the reversal of alterations that are themselves of quality and interest.

Exclusions:

  • Internal repairs are only eligible where they are directly related to external repairs or are essential to the preservation of the building, for example, the eradication of dry rot. In exceptional circumstances, redecoration can be included if it is considered necessary as a result of an eligible repair. Extensions, alterations, face-lifts and day to day maintenance are not eligible. Eligible and non-eligible work may well form part of the same programme, but the costs should always be kept separate.
  • Maintenance and minor repairs. This is work that we would expect to be carried out on a regular basis to prevent the building from deteriorating, such as the cleaning out of rainwater goods, checking of flashings and roof coverings for slipped slates or tiles, removal of plants, redecoration including cleaning of metalwork and regular repainting of joinery).
  • VAT: If you are able to claim back VAT then VAT is not eligible as part of the costs of your project and should not be included.
  • Retrospective funding or a project that has already commenced without prior consent and before a written offer of grant has been made by you and accepted by the individual building owner.
  • Demolitions.
  • Conversion and alterations.
  • Modernisation.
  • Building services, (except in exceptional circumstances where the state of repair of current building services threaten the historic significance of a building). Rainwater disposal systems are eligible.
  • Substitute materials (the use of substitute materials where the original is obtainable). This does not mean you should not consider alternative materials in situations where the original materials have failed and will continue to fail regularly if they are replaced like for like.
  • Conjectural reinstatement. Generally, within the architectural features element of the scheme, grant should not be given for wholly speculative reconstruction or reinstatement of features that have totally disappeared leaving no archaeological traces or photographs or drawings. Exceptionally, cases may arise where the ground floor of a building has been totally lost and the present façade detracts from the conservation area, in which case grant aid may be given towards a good design that is in context).

Eligibility

If you are the owner or  leaseholder of a historic building you could be eligible for a grant.

Assessment criteria

PSICA grant applications will be considered on the following criteria:

  • Architectural quality or historical importance of the building: Priority would be given where project proposals aim to restore and / or repair the special qualities of an historic building, particularly those that are listed and those frontages on the High Street. Modern buildings will not be eligible. Many of the shops in the scheme area are suffering from cheap, low quality modern frontages and signage. Proposals to replace these with a reinstated traditional shop front will be encouraged where appropriate. Where architectural features are to be reinstated, historic photographs and research (HE Research Report and other sources where necessary) will be used to ensure authentic reproduction.
  • Buildings At Risk: Strong consideration will be given to those historic properties which are physically decaying, appear neglected or face potential demolition or harmful alteration.
  • Existing or proposed use for the property: Grant monies will not be offered for commercial properties with a proposed use which would be harmful to the existing local economy or would harm the vitality or vibrancy of the street scene. This policy will apply even if the existing commercial unit is currently vacant.
  • Job creation: Where the grant will help create or bolster a business located at the property which would result in the creation of new local employment opportunities.
  • Willingness of the property owner: Grant offers will only be made if it is felt that the property owners are keen to contribute their partnership funding to the project and wish to commence the grant aided works quickly.
  • Cluster projects: Where adjoining property owners wish to work in partnership, priority funding will be given to a group of 2, 3 or 4 properties in a terrace which will bring simultaneous and cohesive visual improvements to the historic streetscape.
  • Residential units: Grant aid would be considered where this would act as leverage to encourage or intensify residential uses above shops.
  • Internal repairs are only eligible where they are directly related to external repairs or are essential to the preservation of the building, for example, the eradication of dry rot. In exceptional circumstances, redecoration can be included if it is considered necessary as a result of an eligible repair. Extensions, alterations, face-lifts and day to day maintenance are not eligible. Eligible and non-eligible work may well form part of the same programme, but the costs should always be kept separate.

Grant rates

For reinstatement of lost architectural features (for example a shop front) the grant rate is 80% of the total cost of eligible works. For repairs, the grant rate is 65% of the total cost of eligible works.

There is a minimum of £500 and a grant maximum of £50,000 (although grants at this level will only be considered in exceptional circumstances).  

Property ownership

If your interest in the property is a non-repairing leasehold or tenancy you will need permission from the owner, who will be required to be the applicant.

If the property, or any part of the property is jointly owned you will need permission from all of the owners.

If you hold a full repairing leasehold with 21 years or more remaining on, then you will be eligible for grant.

Application process

Please contact us in the first instance. If the property is eligible we will arrange a visit and give an initial assessment. Three quotations (or tenders – depending on scale of work) will be required according to Historic England specification. If required, planning permission will need to be obtained and then your application form will be processed. Once the application form and quotation have been approved, work can be carried out. Works over £20,000 will require an accredited architect.

Provisional timescales

Grants will not be offered for work that has already begun, and cannot be awarded for works that do not have the relevant planning, listed building consent or building regulations approval. It is vital that applicants plan ahead when completing application forms by submitting supporting documents and obtaining any necessary consent.

This is an open three year grant scheme available from April 2019 until March 2022. Once all permissions have been obtained, application form received and your quotation has been approved, we aim to grant final approval within 7 days.

Information requirements

We will advise you on eligible works and the application process. All proposed works must respect the character and integrity of the building, and of the conservation area it lies within.

  • You must be able to demonstrate your interest in the property, provide proof of ownership and/or possession of the property and identify any encumbrances.
  • Any outstanding issues of Planning Enforcement or unauthorised work to the property need to be resolved in writing to the satisfaction of the council.
  • Notify us if you have applied or received offers for any other grants.

You will be asked to provide full details of the proposed works including:

  • a full specification of works
  • where necessary, drawings (relevant annotated plans, elevation and cross sectional drawings)
  • photographs of relevant elevations and details
  • quotations/tenders with costings against a common schedule of works

Tendering and Professional Adviser Costs

As the grant scheme is financed with public money, the council requires that a competitive process is followed for architects, consultants and contractors. This will involve the applicant engaging appropriate professional advice at the outset. If the grant application is approved and the project goes ahead, these initial project costs can be part of the amount claimed under the grant.

Professionals should have relevant specialist conservation knowledge, ability or experience and should be a conservation-accredited architect (RIBA conservation architect) or a RICS conservation-accredited building surveyor. 

Fees must demonstrate value for money

To ensure best value for the grants, the costs of eligible works should be supported by tenders or quotations from contractors secured following a competitive process. Contractors must be able to achieve the standards required and have demonstrable experience of working on conservation projects.

The grant offer will be based on the most competitive tender. If you want to accept a tender, other than the lowest, you must submit reasons why, within your application. If the grant administrators do not agree, any grant awarded will be reduced by a percentage, which reflects the difference between the lowest acceptable tender and the one you accept.

Planning permissions and building regulations costs are NOT covered by the grant.

Grant panel

A panel will meet to go through the applications and approve the quotation/tender. The panel will comprise East Suffolk Council officers and, where appropriate, staff from Historic England.

Once the project has been approved, the East Suffolk grants administration team will process the paper work and send out a Grant Offer Letter and Grant Agreement. You will need to accept the offer within one month. You will be required to agree to terms and conditions detailed in the Grant Agreement. An offer of a grant and the formal acceptance of that offer constitute a legal contract between you and the council.

Grant Agreement

If you are offered funding and you sign a Grant Agreement, the grant-work must be completed within 12 months of signing the agreement. We are happy to share a copy of the Grant Agreement with you if asked.

Grant Payments

Before the grant is approved and the grant agreement is signed, all initial project costs (pre-contract costs) are at the grant applicant’s risk. Project costs eligible for grant funding, such as architect fees, can be part of the grant, however if the project does not proceed, a grant will not be given for any of these costs.

The grant is claimed on receipt of an invoice and following a final sign off visit. If there is an overspend on the grant-aided works the grant will not be increased. If the total cost of grant-aided works is less than indicated in your application, the amount of grant funding will be reduced in line with your approved grant rate. The grant payment will be withheld until we are satisfied that all works have been completed to the required standard.

Starting the Work

Once the Grant Offer Letter and Agreement has been signed work must commence within 6 months. Work must not start until written approval is given. The project will be periodically monitored to ensure work is progressing satisfactorily and that the Grant Agreement is being adhered to.

Publicity

Historic England and East Suffolk Council reserve the right to display hoardings during the building work and use photographs and details of your project in promotional literature.

Completion

Following completion of the project, the Heritage Action Zone Programme Manager, East Suffolk Council Conservation Officer and where appropriate members of staff from Historic England will visit the site to assess the completed works and ensure compliance with all terms and conditions. Following this visit, you will be asked to submit original copies of invoices and copies of certificates for the works undertaken for which you are claiming grant funding.

A grant will not be paid for work that does not meet generally accepted standards of quality and accuracy in materials and/or workmanship. Work should be completed by the approved contractor and sub-contractors as per the approved schedule of works, plans and drawings.

HAZ PSiCA area map

Conservation area

Conservation area