High Street Culture
Find out what’s coming up in our four-year programme of cultural activity across England's High Streets Heritage Action Zones, continuing until 2024.
Plymouth's 20th century city centre is an outstanding example of post-war planning and modern architecture, and the most complete realisation of such a plan anywhere in Britain.
The historic city centre was comprehensively rebuilt following four years of bombardment during the Second World War based on ‘A Plan for Plymouth 1943’ by Professor Patrick Abercrombie and James Paton Walsh. The so-called Abercrombie Estate is Plymouth’s commercial, civic and cultural centre, effectively a High Street serving around 500,000 people in the city and surrounding areas.
Plymouth city centre is in the top 10% most deprived wards in the country. It has experienced a 15% decline in footfall in the last five years, higher than the national average. The post-war plan for the centre means it now has a disproportionately high amount of retail space which makes it especially vulnerable to shrinking retail demand. Its lack of mixed uses, such as residential and commercial, mean fewer opportunities to diversify.
There are physical challenges too. Major elements of the Abercrombie Estate including the Civic Centre and Civic Square are now in need of urgent repair. The facades along the Royal Parade are tired and need attention, and the streetscape needs de-cluttering.
Plymouth’s post-war buildings tell an extraordinary story of a city that rebuilt itself. Its history is in the stonework of all these buildings and they should be celebrated and talked about. We want people to look up, look at these incredible buildings with a fresh pair of eyes.
The High Street Heritage Action Zone will support Plymouth’s wider regeneration plans and tackle these priorities.
The award of up to £1.99 million to Plymouth City Council will also support a programme of public engagement to raise awareness of the 20th century architecture, which can divide opinion.
Working with The Box and other cultural organisations, the HAZ will deliver a programme of cultural activities to celebrate the Abercrombie Estate and its importance to the city and beyond.
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