Regenerating Historic High Streets
Launching in spring 2019, a new £40 million fund will allow Historic England to work with partners to find new ways to champion and revive our historic high street through a High Street Heritage Action Zones scheme.
On this page:
- What historic high streets have to offer
- Why they need our help
- Historic character helps commerce
- Building on past successes
- The High Street Heritage Action Zones scheme
What historic high streets have to offer
High streets bring value to places. When properly cared for, high streets are the focus not only of local commerce, but also of the local community.
They hold stories of how our places were, and continue to be, shaped by the people who live and work there. Those stories, manifested in the built environment, are presented in the form of the unique character of a place; character that gives people a sense of connection and ownership, leading to social cohesion, better quality of life and more confident and more resilient places.
Why they need our help
But many high streets are struggling. Competition from out of town retail parks and online stores has taken its toll and vacant premises are on the increase. The character of our historic high streets is suffering, making them less desirable places to be.
Historic character helps commerce
Recent research for our Heritage Counts publication highlighted the important link that exists between commercial confidence and the built environment in which it is situated. Principally it identified that:
- 69% of commercial occupiers say “Historic buildings give a positive image to customers and clients”
- The number of businesses operating in listed buildings across England rose by 18% between 2012/2018. That increase was 154% for retail brands and 173% for food and drink brands
Building on past successes
Historic England has a proven track record of intervening in flagging historic urban centres. Our approach is to work with partners to increase economic activity and pave the way for private investment on a much larger scale. Our successes range from Whitstable in the 1980s to more recent projects in Margate, Derby and Grantham.
Our expertise and experience, working together with the local knowledge and levers of local councils and the passion of local communities is a powerful cocktail for kick-starting regeneration.
Through understanding and enhancing the features that make them special, we can make England’s high streets more attractive places to work, live and play. Our funding combined with our Heritage Action Zone approach has achieved sustainable positive change the length and breadth of England.
The High Street Heritage Action Zones scheme
By extending Historic England’s successful Heritage Action Zone initiative, we will deliver a four-year programme of physical improvements and cultural activities to regenerate England’s struggling historic high streets and town centres around the country. To do this, we’ll be working closely with local authorities, Business Improvement Districts, Chambers of Commerce and other community groups.
Further information on the new scheme will be available in the spring, but if you have any queries please get in contact at the address below.
Also of interest...
Find out how we can help you to unlock the economic potential of a historic site in your area with our new Heritage Action Zones scheme.
Our advice on retail trends and what they might mean for historic town centres and high streets.
Through place-making we shape our public spaces and buildings to improve a community’s cultural, economic, social and environmental situation.