Discovering Sutton Heritage Action Zone

Sutton Town Centre is changing and heritage will be at the heart of it’s future.

With the arrival of the railway in 1847 Sutton grew rapidly as a commuter town, linking it to central London. Much of the town's earliest architecture dates from the Victorian period, which you can seen in abundance with the rich and varied shopping parades along the High Street.  

Unfortunately, today, the High Street Crossroads Conservation Area is 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.

Already the fourth largest hub in South London with 25,000 people visiting each day, Sutton is changing quickly. As one of 13 metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan, a designation highlighting it as an area with the potential for new opportunity, it is expected to deliver significant growth. Nearly 50 sites have been identified for redevelopment by the Council, which will deliver around 3,400 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 its unique historic character 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: Having completed a Historic Area Assessment that sets out how Sutton has grown and developed, we launched the report along with an easily accessible Gateway document at a public meeting. This will underpin our future work on the HAZ project. See the research findings from Locus Consulting in the Gateway Report 
  • Archaeology: We have reviewed archaeological records to determine the potential for new and exciting discoveries. This work is now complete and should support the Council and developers as they plan for major sites in the Town Centre 
  • Listing: On Historic England’s advice, DCMS have listed five previously unlisted structures including the landmark fingerpost ‘Cock’ sign. Sutton Baptist Church and St Nicholas Church have also both been upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*, recognising their particular importance as buildings of more than special interest. List descriptions have be improved on other buildings to support the planning process
  • Conservation area: A project team have been appointed to deliver a Partnership in Conservation Area grant scheme for the Council, with funding from Historic England. This is targeting buildings and structures in the conservation area for building enhancement works, working in partnership with local shop owners and local landowners
  • Events: We have held several events and are planning more with partners to explore 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 and District History and Archaeology Society

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David English

Historic Places Adviser - Sutton HAZ enquiries

Planning Group

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