Magdala Buildings, Regent Street, Weston-super-Mare
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Magdala Buildings, Regent Street, Weston-super-Mare Heritage Action Zone, 2018 © Historic England DP218650
Magdala Buildings, Regent Street, Weston-super-Mare Heritage Action Zone, 2018 © Historic England DP218650

Regenerating Historic High Streets through Heritage Action Zones

In May 2019, we launched a new £44 million fund which will allow Historic England to work with partners to find new ways to champion and revive our historic high streets through the High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme.

The Expression of Interest stage for our High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme has now closed. Details of next steps will be available in September.

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.

Shop front before and after renovation
Shop front in Sadler Gate, Derby - Before and after regeneration through Historic England partnership scheme with the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District. © Historic England

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.

Row of shops before and after renovation
10-28 The Strand, Derby before and after renovation © Historic England

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 Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme

By extending Historic England’s successful Heritage Action Zone initiative, we will deliver a four-year programme of physical improvements, community engagement 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.

Read the frequently asked questions

High Streets Heritage Action Zones represent one part of a wider fund that targets the regeneration of historic high streets. In addition to the £40 million allocated to Historic England is £15 million of funding for The Architectural Heritage Fund’s Transforming Places through Heritage Programme. This will help charities and social enterprises to regenerate and put back into use historic buildings on high streets across England.

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