Busy beach with sea wall and Victorian terraces lining the seafront above the beach.
Busy beach with holiday-makers enjoying the sunny weather at the marine lake at Weston-super-Mare © Historic England Archive DP236231
Busy beach with holiday-makers enjoying the sunny weather at the marine lake at Weston-super-Mare © Historic England Archive DP236231

Heritage Action Zones – Breathing New Life Into Old Places

Historic England’s Heritage Action Zone schemes are designed to unleash the power of the historic environment, creating conditions for economic growth and improving the quality of life in villages, towns and cities across England.

We have been busy unlocking hidden potential by working with local people and partners, invigorating old and familiar places that are rich in heritage and full of promise to make them more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors. All this has been done through joint-working, grant funding and sharing our skills and knowledge.

The first Heritage Action Zones, which complete this year, have given 10 places a new lease of life. Historic buildings that were deteriorating through decades of neglect have been restored and put back into use, providing employment and volunteering opportunities; conservation areas have been improved, kick-starting regeneration and renewal that has helped attract significant investment and meet local housing targets; and unsung places are now being recognised and celebrated for their unique character and heritage.

Helping to shape projects with local authorities and communities in these places has involved new and exciting ways of working, sharing knowledge, skills and helping to address significant long-term issues like climate change. Heritage Action Zones show that, with the right combination of people, place and vision, it’s possible to deliver transformational change for people and heritage.

Heritage Action Zones completing in 2021-2022

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Eden District Council and Appleby Town Council

Appleby Heritage Action Zone has invested in the Castle Keep, St Lawrence’s Railings, The Moot Hall, the High and Low Crosses and will soon to support repairs to the Cloisters, amongst other local buildings.

Architectural research has contributed to the newly adopted Conservation Area Assessment and Management Plan. The town’s information boards have been renewed, including new illustrations by a local artist.

The impetus provided by grants and specialist advice, galvanised through whole-hearted collaboration between the local community and partners, has transformed this beautiful Cumbrian market town.

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Coventry City Council, City of Culture Trust, Historic Coventry Trust, Coventry Cathedral, Culture Coventry, Coventry and Warwickshire LEP, and Coventry University.

With Coventry’s tenure as UK City of Culture falling within the Coventry Heritage Action Zone, the provision of new and exciting heritage destinations and services has been timely. With the Heritage Action Zone boundary taking in an area within the 20% most deprived in England, opportunities to use heritage-led generation to boost prosperity have been seized.

Key achievements include:

  • The transformation of gems such as the Charterhouse and Draper’s Hall into a heritage attraction and music venue
  • The repair of Coventry’s medieval walls and gates, which have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register, with the latter being converted into boutique holiday lets – as have the cottages on Priory Row
  • Community events and exhibitions have shone a light on Coventry’s mid-century modern buildings as well as surviving medieval heritage
  • The international symposium on concrete and 20th-century churches

The Heritage Action Zone has helped to ‘transform Coventry through heritage’ – a dynamic partnership that also included the local civic society, university, cathedral and other community groups.

Coventry has a second Heritage Action Zone, a High Street Heritage Action Zone, based around The Burges, which has been the pilot for a national scheme, showing what heritage-led regeneration can do.

Learn about Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone

  • Duration: 3 years
  • Partner: Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

The Heritage Action Zone has completely transformed our understanding of Elsecar, now recognised as a unique early model industrial village created by the Earls Fitzwilliam from the 1790s onwards.

Extensive research and fieldwork through the Heritage Action Zone created a detailed picture of Elsecar as a planned industrial landscape and estate village. It included collieries, workshops, ironworks, a canal and railway, as well as housing for workers, a church, school, miners’ lodging house, pubs, shops, a cricket club and park – the majority of which still survive. Read the illustrated report.

The research has led to key outputs including:

  • New listings and planning policy and guidance, developed by Barnsley Council with support from Historic England
  • Emerging plans for growth and recovery based on heritage and culture

The Heritage Action Zone delivered community activities, including community excavations, student research placements, and guided walks and events, with residents and visitors coming together to explore and celebrate the village and discuss its future care and growth.


  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partner: Hull City Council

The Hull Old Town Heritage Action Zone was developed on the foundations laid by City of Culture 2017, and the accompanying regeneration of key cultural and community facilities such as the Ferens Art Gallery, New Theatre and Trinity Markets, alongside a major public realm scheme.

Several projects were delivered through the Heritage Action Zone scheme, including a community archaeology initiative at the South Blockhouse (part of Hull’s medieval fortifications) to the regeneration of the Georgian Trinity House complex.

Grant funding supported the area of Whitefriargate and Silver Street, one of the key thoroughfares through Hull’s Old Town. Grants also enabled the repair of 16 buildings, including:

  • The connected Trinity House properties from 1-9 Whitefriargate
  • No 15 Whitefriargate, the former Kardomah Café, now home to Wrecking Ball Music & Books, an independent business selling vinyl records, books, with a café and events venue
  • No 55 Whitefriargate, a former HSBC Bank premises, now converted to serviced offices, a bar, pizzeria and Gin School

There have been two Heritage Action Zones in Hull. The second one, the Hull Whitefriargate High Street Heritage Action Zone is still in progress, helping to re-position Whitefriargate as a family-friendly destination through the development of new leisure activities, cafes and restaurants.

Learn about Whitefriargate High Street Heritage Action Zone

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, The Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP, West Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, King’s Lynn Town Centre Partnership & BID and Norfolk County Council.

King’s Lynn Heritage Action Zone has focused on researching the rich heritage of the town and engaging with the local community to understand the importance of this historic trading port.

Research resulted in a new understanding of key sites including Southgates, Chapel Street and Common Staithe Quay. The findings will inform their future development.

The new research was also shared with the public via online webinars and used as a catalyst to inspire and engage local school children, teaching them about the heritage of the town through hands-on arts and cultural activities under Historic England’s Heritage Schools programme.

Students from the College of West Anglia, together with Historic England and the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk co-produced Building on the Past, a short film telling the story of King’s Lynn’s Chapel Street.

Also, as part of the Heritage Action Zone, two buildings are now listed at Grade II: One of England’s earliest reinforced concrete buildings at 33-39 St James Street (presently the premises for Kwik Fit) and the former Lloyd's Bank at Tuesday Market Place.

Learn about the King's Lynn Heritage Action Zone

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Nottingham City Council and Creative Quarter

The Nottingham Heritage Action Zone has delivered a range of exciting projects since it began in 2017, including:

  • The Birkin Building in the Lace Market has been converted to offices for creative industries, with the help of HAZ funding for important repairs.
  • Bromley House, a private subscription library just off the Market Square has had a new roof, helping to safeguard the wonderful collection of books and enabled greater use of the building.
  • The Urban Room, one of the first in the UK, now provides a space at 38 Carrington St where the city’s past and future can be learned about and discussed by local people and visitors.
  • New listed status and protection has been given to a number of important buildings, including Richmond House on Canal Street and the Raleigh cycle company’s former offices at the Marcus Garvey Centre. Also, 14 historic shop fronts are being renovated.
  • 14 historic shop fronts are being reinstated

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Thanet District Council, Ramsgate Town Council, the Ramsgate Coastal Community Team and the Ramsgate Society

The many successes of the Ramsgate Heritage Action Zone include:

  • New research to better understand the history, heritage and changing face of this dynamic coastal town resulting in the listing of nine historic sites and a popular Historic England book Ramsgate: The town and its seaside heritage
  • Public steps restored with Pugin-inspired tiles designed by local school children
  • Repairs to the town’s notable Pulhamite artificial rock and iconic Clock House
  • A seaside memory project and podcast

Ramsgate’s conservation area covers the whole town and needed reviewing. The Heritage Action Zone funded an appraisal, community consultation, a guide with practical advice for residents and businesses, and advice on climate considerations.

The Heritage Action Zone has attracted substantial additional funding, which will continue to improve the town for those who live or work there, and visitors too.

Ramsgate has a second Heritage Action Zone. Ramsgate’s High Street Heritage Action Zone is seeking to transform some historic buildings, make improvements to the High Street and re-purpose empty buildings for creative and community use.

Learn about Ramsgate's High Street Heritage Action Zone

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Sunderland City Council, Churches Conservation Trust, Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust, Sunderland Heritage Forum and Sunderland Culture

Through the Sunderland Heritage Action Zone, 13 buildings have been repaired, including Hutchinson’s Buildings and 170-175 High Street West, enabling new independent shops to open and create space for a music and culture venue known as Pop Recs.

Eight buildings have been brought back into use, through collaborative work which was captured in five films that highlight the successes and challenges of the Partnership Grant Scheme.

Furthermore, the Heritage Action Zone has seen the removal of the Grade I listed Church of Holy Trinity from the Heritage at Risk Register.

More than 2,000 people have attended heritage-related events, including a Heritage Schools programme and 150 volunteers have been involved in the scheme.

Several investigative reports were published (three building assessments; a Historic Area Assessment and an aerial photography report) that helped Historic England to update five entries on the National Heritage List for England. Finally, a pilot research project is exploring whether heritage can improve people’s wellbeing.

  • Duration: 3 years
  • Partners: Sutton Borough Council, Successful Sutton Business Improvement District, and Carshalton and District History and Archaeology Society

As part of the Sutton Heritage Action Zone, Historic England commissioned research which sets out how Sutton has grown and developed, particularly since the arrival of the railway in 1847.

On Historic England’s advice, five local landmarks were given listed status and Sutton Baptist Church and St Nicholas Church had their listings upgraded. Conservation specialists restored the famous cockerel sign – newly listed – with the work match-funded by Historic England.

Grants were also made available to shop owners to restore and enhance their historic buildings, which resulted in repairs to four key properties.

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Weston Town Council, Weston super Mare Civic Society, Weston Museum, Weston Town Centre Partnership Bid, Weston College, Weston Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses (Weston Branch), Voluntary Action North Somerset and Heart of Weston Public Health Team

The Weston-super-Mare Heritage Action Zone has helped to further advance Weston-super-Mare’s reputation as a great place to live, work, study and visit.

Research carried out at the beginning of the Heritage Action Zone fed into many public celebrations, exhibitions and activities such as guided walks, and a popular Historic England book Weston super Mare: The town and its seaside heritage. An ambitious arts and culture programme helped to challenge negative perceptions of the town by engaging ever wider audiences with the town’s heritage.

The focus of longstanding regeneration efforts shifted from the seafront to the Victorian town centre, aided by a newly created Conservation Area. The Railway Station and WHSmith’s on the high street were also designated as listed buildings.

Several other historic buildings and notable 20th-century premises benefitted from grants to restore their former grandeur, including the 1950s shopfront of local retailer Walker and Ling, achieving a local Civic Society Award in 2022.

A programme of improved public places, streets and spaces has also been delivered through the partnership.

Weston-super-Mare has a second Heritage Action Zone still running. Building on the achievements above, Weston-super-Mare’s High Street Heritage Action Zone is focused on the town’s 20th-century extension and its distinctive architectural heritage.

Learn about Weston-super-Mare’s High Street Heritage Action Zone

Historic England support

If you think Historic England can help you put a plan together to unleash the power of your historic place, then please get in touch with your local regional office to talk your proposal through. These are some of the services we are providing to the Heritage Action Zones:

  • Research into historic sites or buildings (e.g. to identify the significance of a place or find a technical solution to a problem)
  • Funding, including Repair Grants for listed buildings, scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens, and Capacity Building Grants for wider area-based schemes
  • Advice on repairing and finding new uses for buildings
  • Advice on planning policy
  • Condition surveys of buildings and monuments
  • Historic Area Assessments to understand and explain the heritage interest of an area, and characterisation reports
  • Help with updating entries on the National Heritage List for England - the official register of protected historic buildings and sites (this can offer clarity about where change is possible)
  • Training in how to assess the significance of historic places
  • Help with identifying places that could be listed (this can help to inform and facilitate decisions on the future of an area)
  • Help with engaging local communities
  • Networks and contacts that may bring other key players to the table