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Double celebrations as National Lottery Heritage Fund cash secured for two Focus projects

By August 9, 2023December 7th, 2023No Comments
Exterior photograph of the Jumbo water tower.

Multi-disciplinary company Focus (Heritage Trust Network Partner member) is celebrating after news that two of its projects have secured vital National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) cash.

As project managers, the company guided the two teams through the rigorous application process – helping to bring the ambitions of their clients much closer.

The project to preserve Colchester’s Balkerne Water Tower, affectionately known as Jumbo, has been awarded £250,000 Development Stage funding to explore options to help this iconic landmark retain its special place in the hearts of the local community.

The funding will examine commercially viable options for the grade II* listed building which is the largest Victorian municipal water tower in England and has national significance as the last remaining listed water tower that is still intact.

In addition, £5.7m Delivery Stage funding has been secured from the NLHF for the Nature + Love project at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill, London, which explores how to blend environmental stewardship with cultural exploration in line with their Climate and Ecological Manifesto.

Focus is working closely with the Horniman’s curators, learning team, horticultural team, conservators, and other experts to develop a project that seeks to highlight the importance of protecting the natural world, ignite a sense of environmental responsibility and foster appreciation for the planet’s biodiversity.

As well as much-needed modernisation of the Natural History Gallery, Nature + Love seeks to renovate under-used areas of the museum’s gardens, creating an improved visitor experience that encourages sustainable practices and fosters a love of nature, both inside the Horniman and in the Gardens.

Partner at Focus, Eleanor Clarke, said: “Focus is one of the country’s leading consultants in the heritage sector having worked with many heritage and visitor attractions, undertaking a range of roles including project management, quantity surveyor and contract administrator, working collaboratively with the client team, designers and contractors to deliver projects to both budget and schedule.

“We are delighted to have guided the teams behind the Jumbo Water Tower project and the Nature + Love project in their successful applications for funding to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), which means they can both move forward with their plans.”

North Essex Heritage recognised the urgent need for restoring the Jumbo Water Tower which has been on the Heritage at Risk Register for 30 years, and working closely alongside the project team, local authorities and with guidance from Focus, a plan was devised for the tower’s restoration.

The aim is to produce a commercially viable operation which pays for the building’s upkeep. The building will be run as a destination venue, hospitality, visitor experience and historical interpretation space. The huge water tank will be an exciting mixed-use space, with a bar on the floor below. The Victorian water tower will be a fully accessible heritage attraction, so visitors and residents can admire the remarkable engineering, take in the stunning views or join in community activities.

With £250k Development Stage funding now secured, Focus will be working with the client and team to secure delivery funding, develop the design, and create a business plan that cements their vision of transforming the tower into a vibrant community-focused, commercially-viable asset that will have long-lasting social, economic, and cultural benefits.

Simon Hall, Chair of the Trustees, is delighted with the result and said: “Focus impressed us by their track record and our decision to appoint them was fully justified. Eleanor led the process effectively, using the trustees and our director well, and pushed the pace to achieve an earlier application than we thought possible originally. Though our team has some Lottery experience the project management skills were significantly enhanced. We look forward to working with Focus through the development stage to successful delivery.”

As well as modernising the Natural History Gallery at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, the project includes transforming the disused model boating pond into a natural play area, inspired by local wildlife and designed to encourage young children’s engagement with and love for nature. Step-free access to the Nature Trail will be introduced for the first time. The Nature Explorers Adventure Zone also incorporates rain gardens, to manage rainfall run-off from the slope of the hill.

In the Sustainable Gardening Zone, the under-used South Downs area of the Gardens will be transformed into a Winter Garden, with adjacent glasshouses housing a plant nursery and community facilities focused on sustainable gardening, health and wellbeing. The Sustainable Gardening Zone also features rain gardens, as well as a rainfall capture system which will use gravity to provide watering for plants around the Green Flag awarded Gardens.

With £5.7m Delivery Stage funding secured, Focus will now be working with the team to develop the technical design before procuring contractors and subsequently managing them on site.

Nick Merriman, Chief Executive and Director of Content at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, said: “We want to thank the Heritage Fund for giving our Nature + Love project their approval. We are now looking forward to working with Focus to help create these three new and exciting destinations for our visitors, and to fostering the next generation’s love and care for the natural world.”

Nottingham-headquartered Focus, which also has a key office in London, has been privileged to have been appointed to work on a wide range of heritage and leisure projects previously such as Boston Manor House, St Marylebone, Brooklands, Kelmscott House to name a few.

Focus is a multi-disciplinary company offering a range of services across different sectors. Focus divides its services into three key divisions – Create, Deliver and Assess – and offers funding, business planning and economic development through the Create division, and quantity surveying, project management and building surveying through the Deliver department. The firm’s Assess team advises on sustainable buildings, building physics, compliance and planning, and on-site testing.


Focus Consultants can be found in our Talent Bank of suppliers and on our Partner Members page.

For more details on the Nature + Love project visit

For details on the Jumbo Water Tower project visit

Image credit: North Essex Heritage

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