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£17m to revitalise 10 run-down conservation areas

More than £17 million is to go towards revitalising 10 run-down conservation areas across the UK, marking 50 years since the protection for historic towns was introduced.

Projects receiving money from the Heritage Lottery Fund include £1.2 million for a scheme to restore the Grade II listed Market Arcade in Newport, Wales, the town's oldest surviving shopping arcade.

Just under £2 million will go to halt deterioration and repair historic buildings in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland, with up to 75 properties, shopfronts and public spaces getting improvements.

Stockport's Underbanks area will get £1.8 million to help transform the historic high street and Lurgan, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, will get close to £2 million to restore buildings and breathe new life into the town's conservation area.

It is 50 years since the concept of conservation areas was first introduced in England, Wales and Scotland, amid widespread concern over the pace of redevelopment in historic towns and cities.

The first conservation area was Stamford in Lincolnshire, which has 600 listed buildings, and there are now more than 10,000 such areas across the UK whose historic character is protected, although hundreds are considered to be "at risk".

The Heritage Lottery Fund says it has invested more than £288 million of National Lottery money in more than 439 projects conserving and renewing historic town areas, from Denbigh in North Wales to Whitechapel, London.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "We've been investing money raised through the National Lottery in the UK's conservation areas for more than 20 years and we've seen first-hand the incredible difference it has made to local communities."

She said that where local communities build plans around heritage, " it can have a powerful effect not only on local pride but also on local economic prosperity".

The 10 schemes, which have been awarded development grants to progress their plans to secure full funding from the Townscape Heritage programme, are:

:: Bradford, West Yorkshire £2,000,000 (development grant of £61,800);

:: Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland £1,998,900 (development grant of £70,100);

:: Stockton-on-Tees £2,000,000 (development grant of £124,200);

:: Underbanks, Stockport £1,842,200 (development grant of £53,000);

:: Mansfield, Nottinghamshire £921,600 (development grant of £72,500);

:: Lurgan, Northern Ireland £1,998,900 (development grant of £63,900);

:: Maybole, Scotland £1,999,900 (development grant of £329,900);

:: Penicuik, Scotland £1,806,000 (development grant of £114,000);

:: Market Arcade, Newport, Wales £1,279,600 (development grant of £177,300);

:: Blaenavon, Wales £1,269,800 (development grant of £35,500).

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