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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.

We are seeking 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.

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

How to apply

Applications for Heritage Action Zone status have now closed.

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

Local office email for applications:

East Midlands:

East of England:


North East:

North West:

South East:

South West:

West Midlands:


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

How and when will we decide which projects to take forward?

If we think your proposal has potential, we'll invite you to meet with us and discuss your plans in more detail. A Historic England Selection Panel will then decide which proposals to take forward. We'll contact applicants in November 2016 to let you know the outcome of this process.

Once a Heritage Action Zone has been agreed in principle, key representatives from the local authority, Historic England and other relevant partners will form a Heritage Action Zone Partnership Team.

The applicant and Partnership Team will work together to 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.

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

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Heritage Action Zone