�1.5m grant in sight to transform Diss
A Norfolk town is well on the way to securing more than �1.5m to regenerate an old part of the town as a 'heritage triangle'.
Diss Heritage Partnership has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its Diss Heritage Triangle and Diss Corn Hall project.
The partnership, which comprises Diss Corn Hall Trust, the town council and the museum, aims to restore the Corn Hall and develop the Heritage Triangle surrounding it, to help regenerate the old town.
David Case, of Diss Heritage Partnership, said: 'We're delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. It's a tremendous vote of confidence in Diss.
'The late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman once described Diss as 'the perfect market town' but he also pointed out that 'Diss doesn't show itself at once; you have to go and look to find the treasures'. This project will tackle those issues head-on, and help to transform Diss into a destination, a living library of market town life.'
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Project manager Sheila King said: 'I'm really pleased to have finally secured this funding for the Corn Hall and the Heritage Triangle. It's a truly transformational project for Diss.'
The HLF has ringfenced a grant of �1,522,300 for the project, including funding of �60,900 awarded now to help the partnership develop its plans to apply for the full grant.
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That development work will start in early 2013, with the aim of submitting an application for the full grant in August. If successful, the partnership should find out in November if it has secured the rest of the �1,522,300.
This HLF grant represents more than half of the total project cost, and the partnership will now seek further grant funding. If all goes to plan, the restored Corn Hall and Heritage Triangle should be completed by mid-2015.
The extensive programme of work at the Corn Hall includes restoring the main hall and council chamber and creating a new foyer and box office. A gallery above will support heritage displays and operate as a resource/study centre in partnership with the museum.
In the old town, street landscaping will create 'squares' and areas where visitors can enjoy the Mere and the range of historic buildings in Diss, which will be researched and their stories linked to the development of the town.
Information boards, downloadable digital audio theatre and street performance are also planned, plus opportunities for local people to help with historic research, learn how to maintain heritage buildings, or to work as 'explainers' for visitors on open days and at events.
Education and heritage officers based at the Corn Hall will work with volunteers, local groups and schools, to involve as many people as possible in Diss's heritage.
The Corn Hall, which is grade II-listed, has been operating successfully as a performing arts venue for the last three years. The Heritage Triangle contains more than 100 listed buildings, including one grade I and two grade II*.
Robyn Llewellyn, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the East of England, said: 'We're extremely pleased to give initial support to the project, which aims to bring to life the rich history of the Corn Hall and surrounding Heritage Triangle for the benefit of the local community and visitors alike. We shall watch the developing plans with interest.'
The Corn Hall received �50,000 from the Norfolk County Council community ambition prize at last year's EDP Pride of Norfolk Awards.