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Breathe New Life Into an Old Place - Make It a Heritage Action Zone

Across England, the ancient and historic parts of our towns and cities are also their social and economic centres. Historic quarters give places their character and individuality - a focus for community pride, a sense of shared history, and a sense of belonging. Research shows that businesses based in older places are more productive than their peers, and well-kept historic places add greatly to cultural life and community resilience.

But there remains untapped potential across the country. Villages, old towns, neighbourhoods and quarters that are rich in industrial, rural, cultural or faith heritage, are often under-valued and under-used. They can become symbols of deprivation and dilapidation rather than regeneration and renewal. Historic England wants to unlock this potential.

Through our new Heritage Action Zones initiative, we seek historic places that have the potential to become focal points for sustainable economic development and community life. Working with local partners, we will focus our help and resources on these places to bring them to life. We will spread this effort across the country - a Heritage Action Zone can be based in any region. The first round of successful bids has now been chosen and those shortlisted for 2016 are named below.

What makes a Heritage Action Zone?

Whether you're interested in regenerating a wider area such as a place in decline, a whole town, or a conservation area, the Heritage Action Zone approach will harness Historic England's expertise and resources to help.

To be considered for Heritage Action Zone status an area needs to be of significant historic interest, and able to contribute to the social, economic and environmental needs of a place.

Potential Heritage Action Zones can be:

  • Urban or rural
  • A streetscape, series of buildings or multiple places 
  • Include both listed and unlisted sites

What Historic England can offer

These are some of the skills and resources we can provide:

  • Research into historic sites or buildings
  • Help with engaging local communities
  • Grant aid - from Repair Grants to Capacity Building Grants
  • Advice on repairing and finding new uses for a building
  • Advice on planning policy
  • Condition surveys
  • Historic Area Assessments and characterisation reports
  • Help with updating entries on the National Heritage List for England
  • Training in how to assess the significance of historic places
  • Help with identifying places that could be listed
  • Networks and contacts that may bring other key players to the table

Our track record

We have a great deal of experience of working on successful heritage-related regeneration projects, including:

The role of other organisations

We are keen to maximise the effectiveness of our resources and those of others. You may wish to consider the role of national organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Architectural Heritage Fund in helping to achieve the objectives of your Heritage Action Zone. We will also be seeking Heritage Action Zones in areas where wider cultural benefits can be achieved in association with the forthcoming Department of Culture Media and Sport's 'Great Places' initiative.

Suitability for Heritage Action Zone status

To apply for Heritage Action Zone status you will need to meet these criteria:

  • The Heritage Action Zone should be delivered through a partnership, this could consist of public, private and third sector organisations
  • The Heritage Action Zone should include at least one local authority partner
  • The Heritage Action Zone should deliver opportunities for sustainable long term growth in historic places
  • The Heritage Action Zone must be based around local heritage assets, either designated or undesignated
  • The project should be capable of delivery within a 3-5 year time frame

Shortlisted projects for 2016

The first ten projects have now been selected to become Heritage Action Zones. The shortlisted projects (and lead partner for each project) are:

  • Sutton (town centre) (London Borough of Sutton)
  • Heart of Nottingham (Nottingham Heritage Panel )
  • Coventry (Coventry City Council)
  • Ramsgate (Ramsgate Coastal Community Team) 
  • Weston's Hidden Heritage (North Somerset Council)
  • King's Lynn (Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk)
  • Sunderland Historic High Streets (Sunderland City Council)
  • Appleby Conservation Area (Eden District Council)
  • Hull Old Town (Hull City Council)
  • Elsecar: the Earl's village of iron and coal, Barnsley (Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council)

Key representatives from the local authority, Historic England and other relevant partners will form a Heritage Action Zone Partnership Team. The Partnership Team will develop and agree a full Delivery Plan. This will set out the detailed programme of projects that will be delivered as part of the Heritage Action Zone.

The first round of projects is expected to begin in April 2017.

Keep up to date

To keep up to date about the successful bids, follow the relevant local twitter channel:

If you have any questions about the Heritage Action Zone initiative, please contact us at

How to apply for 2017

Applications for 2016 have now closed but if you're thinking of applying in a future round, you can read our guidance on what to include in your application. Please refer to the Heritage Action Zone process flow chart and programme illustration which accompany these notes for further information. This page will be updated with opening dates for the 2017 round early next year.

If you are interested in discussing a potential project, please contact your local Historic England office to discuss your proposal.

For general enquiries about the Heritage Action Zone initiative, please email:

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Heritage Action Zone