Heritage Lottery Fund project update

The good news
We learned a year ago that our round-1 application to HLF was successful, but did not receive permission to start detailed planning and costing until April 2016. This frustrating period, when parts of our budget were substantially revised, meant that the November 2016 target for submission of our round-2 application was uncomfortably tight.

We appointed Shirley Muir Associates of Blennerhasset, who helped us with the round-1 bid, as project organisers, against competitive quotations. We invited tenders and appointed Peter Kempsey, architect, of Countryside Consultants in Alston to lead the design team, and Minerva Heritage of Lancaster to produce an activities and interpretation plan. Chris Healy of Minerva wrote our 2014 options appraisal , and is now working on our business plan. Lisa Keys is handling activity and interpretation, assisted by The Way Design.

Peter’s team is: Stuart Hobbs, millwright (Greenodd); Blackett Ord Conservation, structural engineers (Appleby); AE Robb & Associates, mechanical/electrical engineers (Newcastle); William Shaw, quantity surveyor (Newcastle); James Woolgrove Associates, health and safety (Carnforth); Wardell Armstrong, archaeology (Carlisle); Hesketh Ecology, (Silloth).
All worked hard over the summer, whipped in when necessary by Dave and Shirley Muir. The Trust is grateful to them all. We discussed their progress and invited comments at meetings, bringing trustees, advisers and volunteers together for the first time, and local residents, businesses and organisations to the mill, continuing discussions at the Boot Inn. We met the planning authority and Copeland BC’s disability adviser.

…and the not so good news
By 30 September and our second HLF review meeting, we had, or were on target for, all the information needed to submit our round-2 application in November. But we knew from the quantity surveyor that building costs for restoration of the mill and cottage were significantly higher than expected, taking the project cost from £807,000 to £1,005,000. On a well-argued case, HLF may allow a 10% increase in the round-1 estimate, but ours is over 20%.  

Some major additional items could not have been foreseen last year, and removing them would damage the project’s sustainability.  Our architect is looking at cutting some non-essential items.
In October, the trustees decided to defer our round-2 application until March 2017, whilst we seek funds to close the gap.  After informal discussion, we hope that Copeland Community Fund and LEADER will increase match-funding, reducing the gap to £75,000.  Potential sources for raising that amount have been identified. 

An immediate problem is that consultants are close to their round-1 budgets, expected to end in November.  We need help to pay additional fees to during the extended development phase until March, particularly on new funding bids.  Applications to raise that money are being made now.
The result of a deferred HLF round-2 application will be known in June, too late to complete tendering and building work in 2017. A start in spring 2018 now seems likely, with another season of relying on the sterling efforts of volunteers next year.

What will it look like?
Parts of the mill will be re-roofed and some timbers will be replaced. There will be some masonry repairs and re-instatement of lime mortar. Otherwise, the mill will not change much externally. Inside, the machinery driven by the lower wheel, which has not turned for many years, will be restored to working order. We expect to be able to produce flour for human consumption, but not to produce it on a large scale.

Internally, the stages of milling will once again become clear, explained by new interpretation signs. As during 2016, the main entrance will be through the double doors, into the room used in recent years as the custodian’s private office. There will be screens in this room, to provide a virtual tour for visitors who cannot access the mill itself. The garage, previously a workshop and store, will undergo major renovation (acceptable to the planners because it does not involve changing the main building) to provide a reception, shop and toilet with disabled access.
The double privy will be restored as part of the tour, and the ruined piggery behind it will become the new workshop. The hayloft over the stable, which already houses the hydro control panel, will be a volunteers’ rest room. Both the stable and the byre, previously a private store, will be accessible to visitors. Dilapidated fencing and external steps will be replaced. There will be improved signage from Dalegarth station.

The cottage, a sorry sight once emptied, will be tanked to deal with extensive damp, and completely refurbished. We would have liked to gain more space by erecting a large shed behind the cottage, but the planners will agree only to a small fuel store. There will be a wildlife management plan for the whole of the grounds, including the field, which has already been partly cleared of brambles by volunteers.

There will be a new website and presence on social media, and a new format for this Newsletter.

Can you help?
We have to raise £75,000 in three months. If any member is able to help, either financially, in kind, or by volunteering for work on site or administrative assistance, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact any trustee. Eskdale mill needs you!

Paul Pharaoh