The restoration of historic Preston Tower and Doocot in Prestonpans is to be supported by the allocation of a town centre improvement grant provided by the Scottish Government.
Preston Tower is a late Medieval towerhouse originally constructed in the 15th century and then repaired and extended upwards in the 17th century.
The project has been identified in collaboration with Prestonpans Community Council, the Preston Seton Gosford Area Partnership, and the National Lottery-funded Great Place Project. Restoration of the buildings is focused on improving access while contributing to the regeneration of the area in collaboration with the local community.
East Lothian Council was allocated £1,275m from the Scottish Government’s 2019/20 Town Centre Fund. Funding had been earmarked for the creation of a travel hub in Haddington, however, this project cannot be delivered in the required timescale for use of the funding.
Instead the allocation be used to fund the improvements at Preston Tower, which is expected to cost up to £900,000.
Funding from the Town Centre Fund, meanwhile, is also being using to support public realm improvements at Prestonpans War Memorial.
Depute Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:
“Preston Tower is a much-loved local landmark in the Prestonpans area. However, the building and nearby Doocot are in need of repair work and I am pleased that Cabinet has today decided to support this project through the re-allocation of town centre improvement funding.
“The overall aim is to allow safe access inside parts of the buildings, to improve the interpretation and understanding of the buildings to help highlight their local and national significance, to link the site with others in the area as part of a wider heritage network, and to fully utilise the potential of area.
“I look forward to seeing this project progress in due course. It is great news for the Prestonpans area.”
D-J Johnston-Smith, Chair of the Heritage sub-committee of Prestonpans Community Council, said:
"We've been actively seeking a long-term solution with the Council and the National Trust for some years that will see these cherished historic buildings in the heart of our community restored to a standard that would allow the public safe and regular access once again, so we are absolutely delighted by the news of this re-allocation of Scottish Government funding. Between this and the work being planned around the War Memorial, these first significant public capital investments in Prestonpans in many years will have a truly transformative effect on the town.
"No further generations of local children at Preston Tower, St Gabriel's or Preston Lodge will be denied entry to the incredible built heritage that sits on their doorsteps, bringing all of the associated positive well-being benefits that ready and regular access to such heritage brings. While the Tower and Doocot restoration project will also provide high quality skilled jobs and training opportunities during its early days and the restored monuments will become a singularly inviting visitor attraction, providing a much needed economic boost to the nearby High Street, before signposting visitors to other heritage sites in nearby Tranent, Cockenzie, Port Seton, Longniddry and Musselburgh."
Andrew Crummy, Chair of the Salt of the Earth project, said:
“We are delighted with this fantastic news! As one of the National Lottery’s Great Place Projects, we recognise the importance of heritage as a key driver for positive change, both for the building itself and for the communities around it. Preston Tower is a building of real significance not only at the heart of Prestonpans, but also a building of national importance which will potentially attract a wide visitor base. Through its restoration we are really keen to get as many people involved as possible.”
Bryan Dickson, Head of Building Conservation for The National Trust for Scotland, who own the building and have a management agreement with East Lothian Council over the running of the property, said:
“We are delighted that the council have allocated funding to facilitate improvements to the site. This will provide a range of opportunities for the local community to be involved and enable much-needed repairs which will protect this important and valued landmark for the future. We look forward to playing our part to ensure that this historic building can contribute even more to the cultural, economic, environmental and community value of the area for years to come.”