Ledbury Places was originally formed through a collaboration of groups and individuals in ownership of, or involved with heritage buildings of the town.
This involved the Ledbury Civic Society, Ledbury Town Council, Ledbury Area Development Trust, the Barrett Browning Institute trustees, as well as various groups involved in the Masters House project, all working with and supported by Herefordshire Council.
Ledbury Civic Society were the initial vehicle for obtaining a large grant from central government through the locality initiative, to do a feasibility study into how a collaborative approach combined with asset transfers could lead to a sustainable future for a group of key heritage buildings in the town to the benefit of the local community.
The buildings included in this study were: The Barrett Browning Institute (old Library), The Market House, The Town Council offices, the Burgage Hall, the Butchers Row Museum, and the Old Grammar School (housing the Heritage Centre).
A £2million ‘Townscape Heritage’ grant application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in August 2014, using the business plan developed through the feasibility study. Though full supported by HLF, the application was unsuccessful.
With encouragement from HLF, a second grant application was made in December 2016, focussing on the Old Grammar School and The Barrett Browning Institute (BBI). Again, though HLF were supportive, the bid was unsuccessful.
In the meantime, Ledbury Places had established itself as a charity, and had taken ownership in asset transfer of the BBI, the Old Grammar School, and the freehold of the Burgage Hall.
Though there was encouragement from HLF to try a third application, it was felt that there was an increasingly urgent need to do repair work to the BBI, and that the grant application process was very time consuming and tended to restrict development of the usage of the buildings involved. This, combined with uncertainty as to how our bid could be improved to compete successfully with very stiff competition led the trustees to the decision to abandon this route, at least for the time being.
The Ledbury Places board has decided instead to focus on developing emergent uses of the buildings in a bottom up approach, in contrast to the town down approach of seeking multi-million pound lottery funding.
This has led to the establishment of a youth drop-in centre, now running two nights a week in the BBI, along with a gradual upgrading of the offer in the Heritage Centre on the ground floor of the Old Grammar School.
The board are now committed to working closely with the group running the drop-in and others, to develop a youth focused future for the BBI.