This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Work Towards Improvement Together

Why work with others

You may need to build a group to:

  • Bring together and influence several parts of your local councils (possibly both at County or District Level), as well as with other organisations
  • Understand what concerns other people have about their historic streets, take their views into consideration alongside your own, building consensus on what can and should be done and show that any proposals you have are supported
  • Gain additional resources, access to a wider range of funding sources and awareness of work others have done and options they have considered
  • Show you have considered realistic, affordable solutions. This will be important if you need to convince your council to take action and will help you in bids to secure funding.

Town team

A town team is an independent group of local residents, business people and community representatives. Members are drawn from diverse sectors and backgrounds within a town and are all volunteers. They come together to make their area a better place to live and work.

Using their existing skills and knowledge of the area and by working together with the local councils and other town teams, they have an opportunity to become 'local experts' on their area. They take a lead on the development of projects that can make positive long-term changes. Town teams organise a range of activities, from small and large events, to business support and high street branding and marketing. Largely they provide influencing but may have access to some government funding by applying for grants.

A town team can be a great forum for developing your ideas with, bringing together a range of people with different views and experience. They will also be aware of what other people may already be doing in the area, issues they have experienced and what has been effective.

Your local highways authority (normally a county council)

Your local highways authority make some of the most important decisions that affect what can be done to conserve or improve your public space. They hold data on road use and safety (including records of accidents). Their support will be necessary if you wish to undertake works to the highway and they may have funding available to contribute to the cost of any works, particularly where these are repairs.

As budgets for highways works are often set on an annual basis, you may want to discuss whether works to enhance your area can be allocated for the next financial year. As budgets are always tight, consider whether a project in your historic street can help the local highways authority draw in external funding to add to the budget they have available.

Paved area of Bedlington with troughs containing flowers, buildings and a few parked cars in the distance.
Bedlington, Northumberland. Improvements to Front Street were funded through the Local transport Plan © Historic England

Your local planning authority

Your local planning authority (LPA) is responsible for planning decisions, including preparing the local plan. The local plan decides where new development should go and what infrastructure (including roads, footpaths, cycleways and public green space) will be needed to serve it, as well as determining most planning applications. Their Conservation Officer may also be able to give you advice about what is considered important about your historic street.

Depending on where you live the LPA might be the district or metropolitan district council, London borough council, unitary authority, national park authority, The Broads Authority, Mayoral Development Corporation or the Mayor of London. County councils are responsible for applications affecting buildings for their use such as libraries and schools.

Improvements to a street may need to be delivered as part of a larger development to 'preserve or enhance' a conservation area's character or appearance. Therefore it is important that the local planning authority know that an issue exists or that something needs to be preserved. The local planning authority also produce the Community Infrastructure Levy schedule and infrastructure list of projects this money can be spent on.

Tactile model of Cambridge in a pedestrianised area with members of the public exploring it by touch.
Tactile model, Cambridge. Public art can be useful and help people understand the history of the place © Historic England

Your parish council or neighbourhood plan forum

These organisations are responsible for preparing and reviewing of the neighbourhood plan within your area and comment on individual proposals or planning applications. They will also have a say over how money from Community Infrastructure Levy payments is spent in their area, receiving part of this money to spend directly

The parish or town council also raise their own funds through a tax called the Parish Precept, which they decide how to spend. This might include funding for works to the public realm. Many parishes are already taking on responsibility for street cleaning and footpath maintenance.

Coastal community team

A coastal community team is a partnership between the local planning authority and local people and businesses for a coastal settlement. They will have an understanding of the issues facing that area and can develop an effective forward strategy for it. Coastal community teams are able to access specific funding made available to support regeneration in coastal areas. Coastal community teams have been particularly successful in using funding to address public realm issues as part of larger regeneration strategies.

Find details of coastal community teams near you

These organisations are responsible for preparing and reviewing of the neighbourhood plan within your area and comment on individual proposals or planning applications. They will also have a say over how money from Community Infrastructure Levy payments is spent in their area, receiving part of this money to spend directly

The parish or town council also raise their own funds through a tax called the Parish Precept, which they decide how to spend. This might include funding for works to the public realm. Many parishes are already taking on responsibility for street cleaning and footpath maintenance.

Residents, civic societies and access groups

Local people are represented by lots of different groups, including residents associations, local history societies, 'friends of' groups and special interest or campaign groups. Civic societies are prominent as organisations who are actively involved in seeking to improve their local environment for residents and businesses, often providing considerable experience and understanding.

Local disabled access groups (sometimes part of a local disability forum) provide important information about requirements for people with mobility, sensory or learning disabilities that you need to consider when preparing any proposals for enhancement of your historic streets. Many will be able to carry out an access audit of the street that will identify issues and requirements, or will advise you on undertaking one yourself.

All of these groups are important to involve in the preparation of proposals for conservation or improvement.

Paved pedestrianised area in a street of shops with benches and planted troughs and members of the public sitting on the benches. Viewed from above.
Dudley MBC worked with local disabled forum Access In Dudley to ensure the design of their market place improvements was inclusive © Historic England

Chamber of commerce

A local chamber of commerce will usually provide a forum for local businesses to share news and to respond collectively to proposals that affect their interests. If issues in your historic streets are affecting local businesses, or proposals to improve the area could affect them, it would be sensible to contact the local chamber of commerce as an effective means of involving businesses.

Business improvement district

Business improvement districts are business led partnerships created to deliver additional services to businesses. They involve local businesses and have access to funds that can be spent to improve the environment for them.

The Norwich Business Improvement District has had notable success in using funds to improve public realm and develop the city's distinctive offer as an historic destination. Colmore Business Improvement District in Birmingham have recently completed enhancement works which were funded using the Business Improvement District Levy.

Local economic partnership

Your local economic partnership is a voluntary partnership between local government and businesses. They set local economic priorities and are able to bid for government investment in infrastructure, including schemes such as City Deals and the Local Growth Deals. They also have access to Highways England's Cycling and Walking Investment Fund. Ask them to include improvements in your area that improve public realm for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as improving access for all users in their Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans.

Highways England

If your area has been negatively affected by impacts from a road that is part of the Strategic Highways Network you may be eligible for funding to remediate or offset harmful impacts from Highways England's Environmental Fund.

Historic England

Yes … talk to us. Your local Historic England office provides a fantastic resource of expertise and knowledge in planning for our historic environment.

Where the condition of the public realm is an issue that contributes to a conservation area being identified as 'at risk', Historic England may be able to offer some financial support for improvements through our grant aid. Normally this would be part of a wider scheme for enhancement of the area, involving repairs to buildings and reinstatement of lost architectural detail. This also requires match funding from other partner organisations. As public realm works tend to be expensive we would normally look for grant aided works to be focused on tackling one area of particular need. For example, the work could focus on improving access to a part of the historic environment whilst conserving its special interest.

We have also provided grant aid to provide practical training for:

  • Skills involved in repairing historic street surfaces
  • Communities, planners and engineers to learn about the importance of historic street furniture and surfaces or the design of a public space.

Man knealing as he works to lay a new stone street surface using a traditional method.
Historic England have provided grants for training in laying setts to provide traditional street surfaces and resource of locally available skills © Historic England
Was this page helpful?