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Heritage Minister Announces Historic Places to Be Revived – and They're Concentrated in the North and Midlands

John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, today announced in a speech the latest historic places that are set to be revived through the Heritage Action Zone scheme, which is run by Historic England. The towns and cities to receive support, concentrated in the North and the Midlands, include Grimsby, once the largest fishing port in the world, Rochdale, the birthplace of the modern co-operative movement and Stoke on Trent, home of the pottery industry.

Heritage Action Zones first came into being earlier this year – the nationwide scheme supports local authorities to unlock untapped potential in places that are rich in history and historic fabric to help them thrive, and improve quality of life for communities and businesses.

Activity in each Heritage Action Zone is based on local need, and ranges from bringing back into use neglected listed buildings as housing, retail or community spaces; improving conservation areas to kick start regeneration; and developing historic sites as visitor attractions.

The new eight Heritage Action Zones announced today are:

  • Bishop Auckland, County Durham
  • Dewsbury Living Market Town, West Yorkshire
  • Greater Grimsby, Lincolnshire
  • North Lowestoft Heritage Quarter, Suffolk
  • Rochdale Town Centre, Greater Manchester
  • Stockton and Darlington Railway, Tees Valley
  • Stoke-on-Trent Ceramic, Staffordshire
  • Walworth, London

Photo shows a clock tower archway which is the entrance to Bishop's Park
The Heritage Action Zone will reinvigorate the town of Bishop Auckland and the wider area. © Historic England Archive DP182413

This is the second wave of Heritage Action Zones. Work is already underway in ten Heritage Action Zones across England.

In each place, work is carried out over three to five years with Historic England working in partnership with local authorities through grant funding, training and skill-sharing. The public body has teams across the country that equip councils to spot heritage potential, restore neglected places and ensure new developments reflect local character and identity.

Find out more about Heritage Action Zones

Photo shows a yellow skip on a pavememnt and historic buildings in the background revealing Grimsby's fishing heritage
Grimsby was once the largest fishing port the world has ever seen, at its peak in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Heritage Minister John Glen said:

"Our heritage not only tells the story of our past, it creates great places to live, work and visit. The Heritage Action Zone scheme is designed to make the most out of the historic environment to kick-start regeneration, increase tourism and boost investment in our towns and cities."

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said:

"Research shows that local history and heritage give people joy and create a sense of pride. Through the Heritage Action Zone scheme we want as many people as possible to feel good about the places where they live and work, and to use heritage as a catalyst to help interesting and beautiful towns and cities across England to thrive."

Photo of a boarded and fenced-up railway ticket office with the grass area used to store rubble and and metal railings3
The scheme at the Stockton and Darlington Railway will help to restore some of the historic features along the 26-mile long line with the aim of boosting tourism and creating jobs. © Historic England Archive DP169016

Heritage Action Zone Summaries

The market town of Bishop Auckland sits in County Durham. This Heritage Action Zone aims to bring neglected buildings back into use to help rejuvenate the town centre. It will build on the considerable private investment going into Auckland Castle that will transform it into a faith, art and heritage destination, reinvigorating the town of Bishop Auckland and the wider area.

Dewsbury was the capital of textile recycling in Britain, collecting rags from across the world to recycle into new heavy woollen materials (Shoddy & Mungo). This mill town in Yorkshire is in transition with retail and commercial activity contracting and housing opportunities emerging. The Heritage Action Zone aims to help drive regeneration of the town centre by: improving the condition and appearance of key buildings within the conservation area 'at risk'; introducing new activity through re-use of vacant buildings and sites and; improving public spaces within the town centre.

Grimsby was once the largest fishing port the world has ever seen, at its peak in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Kasbah area, built in Victorian times, contains the largest collection of fishing related buildings found anywhere in the country, but it's in poor condition following lack of investment after the industry's decline. North East Lincolnshire Council - with Historic England's support - aims to conserve Grimsby's fishing heritage, which has been a priority for several years, and has intensified following the controversial demolition of buildings on Fish Dock Road. North East Lincolnshire Council has also recently designated the Kasbah as a Conservation Area with support from the owner Associated British Ports.

The North Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone includes some of the oldest parts of this town in Suffolk. This was originally the main medieval settlement, grown around the fishing industry, with merchants' housing and shops including net stores. The area is home to a number of historic buildings, the oldest dating back to the 15th century. The key aims of the five year scheme are to restore the old High Street's historic character for the people who live there and to boost tourism. Work will include providing quality spaces for the community, re-connecting the old town to modern Lowestoft, and bringing under-used and vacant land and property back into use for housing and retail.

The aims of the Rochdale Town Centre Heritage Action Zone include regenerating a key gateway into the town centre, removing the Conservation Area from the 'at risk' register, raising awareness of Rochdale's cooperative heritage, increasing affordable residential schemes, and bringing empty properties back into use. As a result it is hoped that the image of Rochdale will be transformed, increasing confidence and helping to kick-start residential and commercial ventures.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway, 26 miles long, operated in the North East from 1825 to 1863 and was the world's first public railway to use steam locomotives. This Heritage Action Zone scheme aims to refurbish heritage features, like bridges and old railway buildings, along the 26 mile route in order to attract new visitors and boost the local economy for the railway's bicentenary in 2025. 

In Stoke-on-Trent, home of the pottery industry, the focus will be on regenerating Longton High Street, enhancing the local housing offer and protecting surviving bottle kilns throughout the city - looking ahead to the 2021 City of Culture bid. This Heritage Action Zone scheme will also seek to engage the community to encourage participation in heritage-based activities, and strengthen relationships with the two local universities.

This Heritage Action Zone aims to rediscover and celebrate Walworth in London as a historic urban village. Key activities will include making improvements to the public realm, and supporting diverse local communities to better understand and enjoy their heritage. It will also support the sustainable delivery of very significant amounts of housing by protecting and celebrating local character and history.

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