Lottery rejects castle repairs

August 11, 2000

Cash and conservationists confound Durham University's plans for historic sites

Durham University has accused the Heritage Lottery Fund of "scandalous discrimination" against higher education.

Adrian Beney, deputy director of development, said the HLF had rejected the university's application for Pounds 3 million to carry out essential repairs to Durham Castle on spurious grounds.

"This is deeply frustrating," he said. "The castle is one of the UK's World Heritage Sites, akin to the pyramids and the Taj Mahal, and has been officially deemed at risk by English Heritage this year. Surely this is a powerful endorsement of our case for funding to carry out conservation and repair work and to increase public access to the castle."

Mr Beney said the Grade I listed building, which dates back 900 years, had been patched up at various times but it fell outside many conventional funding routes because it is owned and maintained by a university.

"The HLF has made the decision that it will not support buildings owned by universities if they are deemed to be part of our core business requirement," he said. "This is a blanket exclusion and amounts to a scandalous discrimination against universities."

The castle was transferred to the university in 1837 by Durham Cathedral. As the core of University College, it houses 100 students and attracts 28,000 visitors a year. The university receives no government funding for any of its residential colleges.

John Anstee, pro vice-chancellor, said: "We spend whatever we can to keep it going as a college of the university and as a public asset for the region and the nation. We will redouble our efforts to raise money, but many potential donors do not want to help until the lottery has done its bit."

The project turned down by the lottery fund would have enabled the university to double visitor numbers, open new areas of the building to the public and make significant improvements to visitor facilities and to displays.

"The castle is deteriorating despite our best efforts to be good stewards of this priceless piece of the nation's heritage," Professor Anstee added.

A spokeswoman for the HLF said this week: "Funding repairs to buildings whose core business is not benefiting the wider public - for instance, schools, universities or hospitals - is low on our priority list. It is essentially to do with the use of the particular building.

"Our allocation for the next year is Pounds 350 million, but applications will far exceed available funds."

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