The Heritage Lottery Fund has launched a £125m grants programme aimed at stimulating economic growth by using derelict historic buildings and sites for commercial purposes.
Under the programme, known as Heritage Enterprise, at least £25m will be awarded annually over the next five years to not-for-profit organisations to help them work in partnership with the private sector in the restoration of unused buildings.
Individual grants of between £100,000 and £5m will be awarded to cover the cost of restoration works. The programme will also offer grants of between £3,000 and £10,000 to help local community groups set up Heritage Enterprise projects, which would then be eligible for further funding.
Projects will be able to apply for a limited amount of funding for capital works, such as urgent repairs to prevent a building from further deteriorating, while they are being planned.
Assessment of the first batch of applications will begin next month.
The launch of the scheme coincided with the release of HLF research that found historic buildings are particularly successful in attracting creative industries and new business start-ups.
The programme is designed to address market failure, where historic buildings have failed to attract enough investment because the cost of their repair has not been commercially viable for private developers.
Ian Lush, chair of the Heritage Investment Working Group, a cross-sector collaboration of heritage regeneration organisations, and chief executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said: "Heritage Enterprise is a really bold and welcome move by the Heritage Lottery Fund at exactly the right time.
"Finding new models for investing in heritage is vital to long-term sustainability, and we know from experience that investment from the private sector not only secures the future of these important buildings, but also has a very positive impact on local economies."