£4m National Lottery grant offering new lease of life to The Canons

A new lease of life will be given to one of Merton’s most historic buildings after it was awarded a £4m National Lottery grant.

Merton Council has spent the past two years working alongside local partners on a set of proposals that marry the old with the new and will bring The Canons and its surrounding grounds to a new, wider audience of users, from all of Mitcham and from further afield.

The £4.7m grant was awarded to Merton Council through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund’s Parks for People programme.

Building works will start in the autumn and are expected to take four years to complete with the 17th century building brought back into full, mixed use; a new community café; office space; walled sensory garden; wildlife pond; play area; and restoration of a cinder running track used by Olympic silver medallist Dorothy Tyler in the 1930s.

The Dovecote, which is the oldest building in Merton, will also be renovated and cleaned along with the obelisk.

The parcel of land is bound to the east and south by town greens, including Three Kings Piece, Cricket Green and Cranmer Green, and sits within the Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area, which includes the oldest cricket ground in the world.

The Canons Partnership, led by Merton Council, and including Friends of the Canons, Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage, the Mitcham Schools Cluster and the Mitcham Society, submitted plans celebrating the site’s heritage and mapping out its future use as a busy hub for community activities and events.

Its regeneration will also provide excellent opportunities for local schools to engage with the horticultural and historic story of the site, along with an educational programme developed in partnership with local organisations including the Mitcham Schools Cluster.

Cllr Nick Draper, Cabinet Member for Community and Culture for Merton Council, described it as a long-overdue recognition of Mitcham’s central place in Merton’s history, and hopes that everyone in Mitcham will see the regenerated, refreshed area as the jewel in their community.

He said: “It is fantastic news and the fact that it will be enjoyed and used by all of Mitcham’s public on a day-to-day basis is great. People breathe life into buildings and creating this community hub offers us all a new lease of life.

“A huge amount of work remains to be done but we hope this is also a step towards the area being awarded Green Flag status in the future. The partnership should be rightly proud of their commitment and hard work

The National Lottery funding marks a turn in the fortunes of Canons House and its grounds, which have seen little investment in the past 20 years with the house standing empty for several years.

Cllr Draper added: “It’s been added to over the centuries including the Canons House and Park Place buildings during the Georgian Period. The partnership’s job is to preserve this heritage while looking to the future and seeing how it can serve the community today.”

HLF’s Chief Executive Ros Kerslake, said, on behalf of HLF and Big Lottery Fund: “It’s difficult to overstate the importance of our public parks. Vital to our well-being and essential to biodiversity, they are highly valued spaces enjoyed daily by people from all walks of life. The Canons is one of the latest parks to benefit from over £900million of National Lottery funding, which over the last twenty years has played a crucial role in revitalising more than 800 parks across the UK.”

Notes to editors

  • To date, more than £900million of money raised by National Lottery players has been invested in parks since 1996.
  • About the Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. We put people in the lead to improve their lives and communities, often through small, local projects. We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year we awarded £583 million and supported around 12,000 projects across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes. Since June 2004 we have awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people.

  • *First-round pass

Parks for People applications are assessed in two rounds. A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

In September 2016, HLF published State of UK Public Parks 2016, a follow-up to its 2014 report.

This second report revealed there is a growing deficit between the rising use of parks and the declining resources that are available to manage them. Without urgent action the continuing downward trend in the condition of many of our most treasured parks and green spaces is set to continue.

Whilst new ways of working and generating income are showing potential, more support, shared learning and collaboration is needed to support those that manage public parks. Therefore, this research calls for collaborative action to deliver new ways of funding and managing public parks to avert a crisis.

  • CLG Select Committee – Public parks inquiry

HLF submitted evidence to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee Inquiry in to the future of public parks. The Committee’s recommendations published in early 2017.

  • The Parks for People programme uses National Lottery funds to support the regeneration, conservation and increased enjoyment of public parks and cemeteries. In England the two National Lottery funds have been working in partnership from 2006 to deliver a multi-million pound investment in public parks. Find out more about how to apply at http://www.hlf.org.uk/parks

Further information

  • Heritage Lottery Fund Press Office – Natasha Ley 020 7591 6143 Natashal@hlf.org.uk / Siobhan Palmer 020 7591 6056 SPalmer@hlf.org.uk
  • Big Lottery Fund Press Office – 020 7211 1888 pressoffice@biglotteryfund.org.uk