Conservation projects can now benefit from grants of up to £250,000 after a major upgrade of a key coronavirus support fund.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has raised the upper limit of bids for cash to cover emergency costs during the Covid-19 crisis. Applications for up to £50,000 were invited last month as the public body works to protect the under-pressure conservation sector. Now the limit has been massively increased as cashflow into the fund has grown due to sales of lottery tickets.

To apply for a grant, you must be a not-for-profit organisation that looks after a heritage asset and have previously received support from the scheme. Cash is available to cover essential costs for up to four months, to help organisations address immediate risks, become more stable and work towards post-Covid recovery.

Grants can be used to stabilise an organisation or asset to address immediate risk; to reconfigure business plans; and to cover essential costs such as site security. Cash can also contribute towards increasing digital activities; testing new activities that will help with recovery; and reviewing and revising strategic and operating plans.

National Lottery Heritage Fund chief executive Ros Kerslake said:

"The coronavirus crisis has a particularly damaging effect on the heritage sector, just as many attractions would be welcoming paying visitors from home and overseas.

We are continuing to talk with heritage organisations and adapt our response to their needs, which is why we have brought in this higher level of funding. Although we may not be able to fund everything, we do encourage organisations to get in touch and apply for funding."

[UK] Heritage minister Nigel Huddleston added: ‘Heritage plays a vitally important role in making our communities better places to live, supports our wellbeing and provides an important boost to local economies. This funding is playing a critical role in helping people, projects and communities from across the sector face the challenges presented by the pandemic.’

Applications open on Thursday 21 May and close on Tuesday 30 June. Purcell Partner David Hills said the higher value grants were ‘great news’.

"What is particularly interesting is that grants can be used to contribute towards digital activities and testing new ideas to review and revise strategic plans. The higher level of funding makes this more achievable. The likelihood of ongoing social distancing might keep visitors at arms length for those institutions that don’t step-up to their digital response and provide virtual experiences to supplement physical visits. ’The heritage sector’s survival depends on innovation, using digital technology to enhance the visitor experience as well as for the maintenance, construction, representation and future management of sites. This will deliver the transformations necessary to provide economic and environmental sustainability in a post-Covid-19 environment."

Historic England last month launched its own £2 million Covid-19 response fund, and said architects working in the sector could apply. A survey by the watchdog found that more than 40 per cent of craft workers and professionals – such as architects, engineers and surveyors – feared their business would fail within three months even with government support.

Part of this story was first published in the Architectural Journal. For more information on funding advice for heritage and other projects contact us.