PLANNING FOR THE MILL’S FUTURE
After examining several options for the Mill’s operation and management after David King’s retirement in February 2016, last autumn the trustees accepted the recommendation of our consultants, Minerva Heritage Ltd, to open it to the public as often as possible, with demonstrations of the machinery by a new custodian. He or she will be an employee of the Trust, not a tenant as at present, and will occupy the refurbished cottage as a condition of employment.
Just before Christmas, we received Minerva’s final review of the Mill as a visitor attraction, and a condition report on all our buildings from Blackett-Ord Conservation Engineers, with estimated repair costs. By February, we also had a specialist millwright’s report on the machinery from Martin Watts, a national authority, again with estimates. We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lake District National Park Authority Communities Fund for enabling us to obtain these reports, each containing essential information for future planning. Including VAT, capital expenditure will be about £420,000
Also in February three trustees, supported by John Hodgson and Rec Cathey from LDNPA, met HLF representatives to discuss a second and larger funding application. Although of course making no commitments, they gave us generally encouraging advice. There may be a problem with funding internal improvements to the cottage, as payment for privately used residential facilities is not normally allowed. HLF emphasised that grants for capital work on buildings follow on from funding of audience development, interpretation and activities for people, not the other way round. Those activities in the first five years will cost another £108,000, taking the total project cost to around £528,000. We will have to find match funding from other sources of 5% of the amount applied for.
Applying for a heritage grant is a two stage process. If we are successful this year with a first round application, there will be a development period during, and perhaps beyond 2016, with HLF funding for working up a detailed second round application. That will include full activities, action and business plans, specifications and architect’s drawings. Professional support will be needed even for the first round, outline application; we hope to pay for that by making yet another grant application – but are still short of the £600 match funding required.
If we succeed at HLF round two, building work will not begin until 2017, at the earliest. Whilst the Mill may close at the construction stage, we shall do our best to keep it ticking over, and to maintain some income from admissions, during the 2016 season onwards. That will probably mean relying on volunteers to guide people round, at times fixed according to train arrivals at Dalegarth. Identifying & training those people is therefore a priority for this year.
Are we daunted by all this ? Of course we are. But as our newest [trustee/adviser’s] father used to tell him, “It's the job that doesn't get started that takes the longest”.