It has been hailed as a 'fantastic day' for Newton Abbot after the £2 million Newton's Place project was backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project, led by Newton Abbot Town Council, aims to preserve the redundant Victorian grade II-listed St Leonard's Church building in Wolborough Street by converting it into a new museum and community hub.
The scheme would also deliver town centre council offices and be the catalyst for the 'Cultural Quarter' development that will encompass the Passmore Edwards Centre and St Leonard's Tower.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has confirmed initial support for a National Lottery grant of £800,000, and thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, a development grant of £150,000 has also been awarded to enable the project team to develop the exciting plans and apply to unlock the full grant.
Newton's Place champion Cllr Mike Ryan said: "It's a fantastic day for everyone in Newton Abbot and the surrounding communities."
Work will now begin in earnest on restoration and conversion plans for the redundant St Leonard's Church, Wolborough Street, although construction work is unlikely to start until the autumn of 2018.
When completed the building will house a revamped Town and GWR Museum, a flexible community space, and offices for Newton Abbot Town Council, who are leading the project.
Civic leaders and the town's MP have reacted with delight to the news that helps to secure the future of the museum and community space scheme that Newton Abbot residents have long asked for.
Cllr Ryan added: "For years our excellent museum has put up with cramped and inadequate premises that many people struggle to find. Now it can flourish in a magnificent listed building which itself will find a new purpose and be restored to its former glory, keeping our heritage alive.
"Our thanks go to the National Lottery for investing in Newton Abbot, its people and their future."
Calling for maximum community involvement Cllr Ryan added: "More than ever we need everyone's support. We'd welcome more volunteers, perhaps commercial partners and the involvement of community groups and individuals."
Newton Abbot MP Anne Marie Morris said: "What a fantastic difference this will make to the town. It will be a real centrepiece and a point of history that everybody will look at, recognise and be incredibly proud of."
The Rev Gareth Regan, new team vicar for Newton Abbot, added: "I'm really excited for the town. I'm also excited to see a church coming back into the hands of the community."
Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: "Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we're delighted to support this key step in the long-held ambition to create a space for heritage and communities at the heart of Newton Abbot.
"It's clear that a lot of work, support and passion has gone into these plans and we're very excited to play a role in helping them become a reality. We look forward to seeing the plans develop."