Frequently Asked Questions About High Streets Heritage Action Zones

Frequently asked questions about High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HSHAZ).

The programme

Why is the focus on high streets?

A successful, vibrant high street acts as the focus of, not only local commerce, but also of the local community. They are one of the few places where people from all backgrounds can meet and engage with each other. Yet, we know from both news reports, and the evidence of our own eyes, that high streets are currently facing many challenges. Without intervention to adapt to these challenges they will continue to decline.

Why is this scheme to support historic high streets being delivered by Historic England?

We have already created 20 Heritage Action Zones across the country. This is an initiative to breathe life into heritage rich but previously unloved places. With our network of local offices we are well placed to bring national insight and local understanding of challenges facing historic high streets and to find creative solutions bespoke to local communities. Our experience of delivering Heritage Action Zones through partnership working and grant schemes for conservation areas means we can move quickly and effectively.

What is a Heritage Action Zone?

It’s an initiative to create economic growth and improve quality of life in places. Working with local people and partners, including local authorities, Historic England is helping to breathe new life into old places that are rich in heritage and full of promise - unlocking their potential and making them more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors. We are doing this through joint-working, grant funding and sharing our skills.

Who will be involved?

HSHAZs is a partnership scheme. Applicants are local groups with a stake in their high streets. These include:

  • Local authorities;
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships;
  • Business Improvement Districts;
  • Local business people;
  • Neighbourhood Planning Bodies;
  • Local Places of Worships; and
  • Other local community groups.

What exactly will be delivered by each high street project?

The details of each individual high street are being worked up in the shape of a programme design now they have been selected. The need for each will be different and it will be important that the support delivered will fit those needs. However, programmes will include physical improvements and cultural activities to regenerate struggling high streets. We’ll be working with local partners to develop and deliver this.

Why only conservation areas?

The Government’s Future High Streets Fund is available for high streets and town centres, the focus of this scheme is historic high streets. Conservation areas exist to manage and protect the special architectural and historic interest of a place. By targeting these areas, the investment being made in the repair and regeneration of the historic environment will be better protected and its positive impact made more sustainable.

What can the money be spent on?

The money can be spent on:

The regeneration of historic buildings and the associated public realm, on or around high streets, using it as a catalyst for improving wider social, cultural, environmental and economic outcomes; and

An associated cultural programme focussed on working with communities and local cultural organisations in developing site-specific events designed to encourage local people to engage with the heritage on their high street.

Does the fund cover the purchase of buildings?

Unfortunately we are unable to fund the purchase of buildings through the High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme.

However, if you as a local authority were planning to purchase the building as part of a wider high streets scheme, and it required eligible repair, reinstatement of architectural features, building conversion, etc. these costs could be then be included in the programme.

Can High Streets HAZ be used to fund building services?

For buildings that are already in use and will be continuing with the same use after repair works, for example a shop where we are reinstating the historic shop front, we would not fund services except in exceptional circumstances, for example where the state of repair of current building services threatens the historic significance of a building.

However, if spaces within the building are being converted to a new use that will increase the sustainability of that building, then services would be eligible. For example if the space above a shop were to be converted to a flat and needed services installed to facilitate this. Services would be funded on a percentage. This percentage would be flexible in response to the needs of each individual building and would be discussed by successful applicants at the Programme Design phase.

Were areas covered by existing HAZs eligible to apply for HSHAZs status as well?

Existing HAZs were eligible for bidding to become High Streets Heritage Action Zones, but they were assessed against an entirely independent set of criteria from those used for the wider Heritage Action Zone programme. Any works/projects/outputs would have to be completely discrete for both schemes, and not using Historic England funds from any PSiCA/existing HAZ programme, as match for any High Streets works/projects/outputs, or vice versa.

What is the relationship between High Streets HAZ funding, and other grant funding from Historic England?

Heritage Action Zone, Partnership Schemes in Conservation Areas or other Historic England grant funding cannot be used to match fund each other.

Where did the funding come from?

Our high streets scheme is part of the government’s ongoing work to help high streets through the Future High Streets Fund. This scheme’s funding includes £92 million of Government funding for High Streets Heritage Action Zones and £3 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a cultural programme to engage people in the life and history of their high street.

What is the relationship between High Streets HAZs; the Future High Street Fund; and the fund being administered by the Architectural Heritage Fund?

All three funds represent elements of the £675 million pot that the Chancellor announced in October last year. Each fund will be sharing a single definition of what a high street is (see Guidance). They also share a single over-arching objective – the regeneration of high streets, though each are seeking to achieve that in different ways.

Because of those connections it is likely that partners will have bid for money from more than one of the funds. Organisations who have applied to the Future High Streets Fund could also apply to this programme, but the capital works for which funding is sought must be discrete and separate for each funding programme. For example, applications were acceptable for capital works to refurbish historic buildings and to improve the public realm on high streets where the FHSF is also providing financial support for transport infrastructure improvements for the same street. Conversely, applications to the HSHAZ programme will have been rejected in instances where they are seeking funding for capital works for which FHSF grant aid has been provided. HSHAZ grant cannot be used as partnership funding for FHSF grant or vice versa.

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What will the programme do for our high streets?

The programme will use investment in our historic high streets as a tool for improving the social, cultural, and economic outcomes of the area. It will revitalize selected high streets by maximizing the potential of local character and heritage assets.

Funding will support both the regeneration of heritage assets and the wider public realm, and the development of community based cultural activities designed to develop high streets as hubs for local cultural, retail and commercial engagement. The programme has three investment objectives that shape all activities to be carried out as part of the programme:

  • Changing perceptions of heritage and high streets.
  • Supporting sustainable economic and cultural growth on and around high streets.
  • Restoring and enhancing local historic character.

How will we ensure that the whole of the community benefits?

Applicants had to demonstrate that they have support from the local community. The scheme includes funding for community engagement activities.

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The application process

The Expression of Interest stage has now closed.

Under this programme, we will fund applications from not-for-profit organisations (e.g. local authorities, charitable trusts, or other public sector organisations) and partnerships led by not-for-profit organisations (a local authority must be part of the partnership) who have demonstrated capacity to deliver. We expect all applicants to work with a range of partners in delivering a HS HAZ scheme.

What areas will we fund?

The definition of a high street we are using is the one used by the Future High Street Fund:

We expect places to come forward with proposals that cover high streets or town centres as defined as areas that exhibit high levels of social and economic activity, that contain a variety of uses and functions and that act as important service centres for extensive catchment populations. Small parades of shops of purely neighbourhood significance are not regarded as high streets or town centres for purposes of this fund. The Fund is not directed at central business districts of major city centres.

Future High Streets Fund

In order to be considered for funding, Expressions of Interest must have met four Essential Criteria:

  • The HSHAZ must be in a Conservation Area
  • The HSHAZ must be delivered through a partnership, and include the local authority as a partner (the local authority does not need to be the lead partner, but there needs to be evidence of their commitment to the initiative)
  • The HSHAZ must be delivered with demonstrable support of the local community
  • The HSHAZ must be capable of delivery (project completion) in four years (April 2020 – March 2024)

How were decisions made on which high streets to give the money to?

Information on the selection process, including the essential and assessment criteria is available in the Guidance.

What are the timescales?

The Expression of Interest stage closed on Friday 12 July 2019 and the successful high streets were announced on 14 September 2019. A pilot scheme has been running in The Burges, Coventry and delivery plans for others have been worked up ready for the schemes to begin.

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