Discovering Sutton Heritage Action Zone

Revealing the heritage of this metropolitan town centre on the cusp of significant growth.

Sutton grew rapidly as a commuter town with the arrival of the railway in 1847, linking it to the capital. Much of the town's earliest architecture dates from the Victorian period, which you can seen in abundance on the High Street.  

Unfortunately, today, the High Street is a Conservation Area at Risk, hollowed out like many others across Britain.

Aerial view of Sutton Station and High Street
Sutton Station and High Street, June 1920 © Historic England EPW001676

Challenges facing Sutton Town Centre

Sutton is not alone in facing challenges to its character and vitality as people choose to shop online and travel to larger nearby shopping destinations.

Sutton is on the verge of significant change, and one of the 11 metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan as an area with the potential for new opportunity.

Already the fourth largest hub in South London with 25,000 people visiting each day, Sutton is set for significant growth. Nearly 50 sites have been identified for redevelopment, which will deliver more than 5,000 new homes, as well as increased retail and commercial space.

While this is good news for the future of the town centre, there are a number of challenges facing Sutton Council and its partners - including how to best preserve the character of Sutton in the midst of such growth and the competing needs of investors, developers, businesses and residents.

How the Heritage Action Zone will help

Over the next three years the Sutton Town Centre Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) will help Sutton face the challenges presented by growth whilst ensuring the character of the town centre is not lost. It will do this through:

  • Supporting Sutton Council's Town Centre Masterplan, designed to make Sutton a destination of choice over the next decade
  • Striving to remove the High Street from the Heritage at Risk Register, creating an environment that keeps existing businesses and attracts new ones; by investing in repairing the historic fabric and reinstating traditional details of characterful buildings
  • Developing guidance and management policies to help ensure that heritage is at the heart of new developments to retain Sutton's distinctiveness, taking cues from existing architecture to promote good design
  • Engaging with the local community to increase the understanding of Sutton's heritage and the tools that are available to manage it, through published research and engagement events
  • Equiping Sutton Council and its partners so that they feel confident preserving the character of the town when working with developers, drawing on Historic England's expertise in assessing significance and through training events
  • Providing transferable lessons for other town centres around balancing growth with the management of heritage assets

What will be happening this year?

  • Research: To understand how Sutton has grown and developed, we have carried out a Historic Area Assessment to underpin other work for the HAZ project. See the research findings from Locus Consulting in the Gateway Report. 
  • Archaeology: We'll review our archaeological records to determine the potential for new and exciting discoveries
  • Listing: List descriptions will be improved to support the planning process and opportunities for new listings will be sought (at a national, and local, level)
  • Conservation area: Through a Partnership in Conservation Area grant from Historic England, a programme of building enhancement works will go ahead, working in partnership with Sutton Borough Council, local shop owners and local landowners
  • Events: A number of events will be held exploring Sutton's heritage, and how this can inform good growth, for those who live, work and visit Sutton

Sutton HAZ partners

  • Historic England 
  • Sutton Borough Council
  • Successful Sutton Business Improvement District
  • Carshalton & District History & Archaeology Society

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David English

Historic Places Adviser - Sutton HAZ enquiries

Planning Group

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