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The Little Houses Improvement Scheme (LHIS) was launched in 1960 with a premise ‘to restore houses of character for re-sale' across Scotland. Essentially, the LHIS buys neglected or dilapidated historic buildings, then restores and sells them on in order to promote their regeneration and renewal as well as the communities in which they are situated.

The introduction of the scheme was a natural progression from the pioneering restoration projects that the National Trust for Scotland had been embarking on across several historic burghs throughout Scotland since the early 1930s. Since the creation of the scheme, the LHIS has been internationally recognised as a pioneer and inspiration to other comparable building preservation initiatives across the UK.

Without the intervention of the LHIS, many historic and beautiful small dwellings dating from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, as well as the character of many historic burghs, would not have survived the modernisations of the 20th century which saw the wholesale destruction of much of Scotland's historic built environment. The list of restorations and developments that have been part of the LHIS over the past fifty years is long. Here are a couple of the most interesting and successful achievements of the LHIS to date:

Culross

During the 1960's, the LHIS embarked on an ambitious ten-year scheme to restore the historic former Royal Burgh of Culross in Fife. The town is a remarkable survival of a 16th and 17th century Scottish burgh that escaped change over the centuries. This was because of a downturn in the town's fortunes that prohibited any significant development to its historic identity whilst preserving the original street plan. The seventeen Trust properties underwent significant restoration in a bid to strengthen and ensure the longevity of Culross' community. Today Culross is a unique survival, the most complete example of a burgh from the 18th and 18th centuries in Scotland.

Dymock's Building

A more recent project undertaken by the LHIS was the restoration of the much-neglected Dymock's Building in Bo'ness. The property was purchased by the Trust in 1997 and by 2002 a plan was in place to restore the building externally to how it would have been in the late 19th century whilst incorporating 8 flats with lift access to provide housing for the elderly. The whole project involved careful conservation whilst incorporating the LHIS' commitment to provide a useful and secure future for the building in the Bo'ness community. Dymock's Building was officially opened by HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay in June 2004.

To read more about the LHIS and its history, click here to buy a copy of Little Houses: the National Trust for Scotland's Improvement Scheme for Small Historic Homes by Diane Watters and Miles Glendinning.

For more information about similar schemes across the UK, visit the website of the Association of Preservation Trusts.