£40 Million Government Funding To Improve Historic High Streets

  • Government announces £40 million for new round of Heritage Action Zones to improve and revive historic high streets
  • Up to 60 historic high streets will benefit from the scheme across England
  • Four year programme of high street improvements and cultural activities

England’s struggling historic high streets are to be regenerated with £40m Government funding that will be delivered by extending Historic England’s successful Heritage Action Zone initiative. The substantial funding was announced in the Autumn Budget (29 October 2018).

Historic England will work with local authorities, Business Improvement Districts, Chambers of Commerce and others to deliver a four-year programme of physical improvements and cultural activities in historic high streets and town centres around the country. The Heritage Action Zones initiative will run alongside the Transforming Places through Heritage programme where Architectural Heritage Fund advisors will support community schemes to deliver new uses for historic buildings on high streets. The total fund for restoring historic high streets is £55 million.

Ramsgate harbour, Kent
Ramsgate harbour, Kent © Historic England DP114422

Historic England has a track record of working with partners to change the fortunes of flagging historic urban centres. Successes range from Whitstable in the 1980s to more recent projects in Derby and Grantham.

Launched two years ago, Heritage Action Zones are already having an impact in places like Ramsgate and Sunderland. Based on similar completed Historic England regeneration schemes, such as one in Derby’s Cathedral Quarter, Historic England expects that the headline investment announced by Government will be matched by public and private partners, ensuring that it has a much greater impact and delivers long-term benefits.

Derby City Centre Conservation Area - The Strand, Derby, a parade of shops built in the 1880s
Derby City Centre Conservation Area - The Strand, Derby, a parade of shops built in the 1880s restored © Historic England DP187421

Studies commissioned by Historic England, the British Retail Consortium and other bodies demonstrates that investment in the historic fabric of towns and cities brings substantial economic and environmental benefits, making places more attractive to businesses and investors, and helping communities to feel a sense of pride about their area.

Historic England will establish partnerships to revive existing retail and commercial space, and help to repurpose failing shops to provide homes and space for other new uses. Through promotion and a programme of cultural activities, historic high streets will see more people visiting them for a new variety of activities, building their sustainability and resilience.

Historic buildings, whether that be in medieval market towns or on post-war high streets, are incredibly significant to our communities and our sense of identity. By investing £55 million up and down the country, we will help restore and regenerate our towns and high streets most in need of support, creating places that people want to live, work and visit.

Michael Ellis, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism

We are delighted to have secured £40 million to work with partners to find new ways to champion and revive our historic high streets. We know that people value their high streets and town centres as spaces where they can meet and feel a sense of communal ownership and belonging. These places tell fascinating stories of how our towns and cities grew and of our shared history. Yet we clearly cannot under-estimate the scale of the challenge with empty shops and the significant shift in retail trends, and the impact that it is having in communities up and down the country. Our experience and track record, combined with the knowledge and passion of local councils, businesses and community groups, will help revive the streets which form the hearts of our historic towns.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England

Cultural programmes and capital works will begin in 2020, with projects completing by the end of 2023. It is estimated that through the scheme, between 40 and 60 historic high streets will benefit.

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