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£6m National Heritage Drive to Bring Economic Growth across England

  • From one of the great seaside towns of the 19th century in Kent and a West Midlands town centre rebuilt after the Blitz, to a Cumbrian town rising from the floods, Historic England announces first wave of places to receive crucial backing
  • 'Will help attract more tourists, reinvigorate local areas and grow local economies' says Heritage Minister
  • Project will support and be delivered in partnership with local authorities
  • Heritage Action Zones welcomed by VisitEngland

A £6m nationwide project has been launched to unlock untapped potential in areas that are rich in heritage, bringing historic places back to life to attract residents, tourists, businesses and investors, and create economic growth in villages, towns and cities across England.

Historic England has announced the first ten places to receive funding over the next three-to-five years. Through the drive, listed buildings that have been neglected will be restored and brought back into use as housing, retail or community spaces; conservation areas improved to kick start regeneration; and historic sites developed as visitor attractions.

View of historic buildings in Nelson Street, King's Lynn
Nelson Street, King's Lynn © Borough Council of King's Lynn West Norfolk

The Heritage Action Zones are in:

The project will see Historic England support local authorities through grant funding, training and sharing skills. For example, the public body will equip councils to spot heritage potential, restore neglected places and ensure new developments reflect local character and identity.

Heritage Action Zones are included in The Culture White Paper which was published last year.

Old Market Square, Nottingham
Old Market Square, Nottingham © Historic England DP046392

Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: 'Our heritage and historic buildings are beautiful assets that make our towns and cities unique. They tell the story of a town's past and should be protected and cherished, and this scheme will bring communities together to appreciate their local heritage. Making the most out of our listed buildings will help attract more tourists, reinvigorate local areas, and grow local economies, meaning residents and businesses across the country will benefit.'

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: 'Through Heritage Action Zones we are providing help where it's needed most. England's rich heritage is one of our greatest capital assets and it's time to use it to bring about positive change in our communities. The historic environment offers people a sense of place, a sense of pride and a sense of belonging - and it helps millions earn a living in this country. Everyone should have a share in its potential.'

VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said: 'Historical locations are a strong pull for domestic and international visitors encouraging them to explore more of our cities and regions. This welcome investment will bring back to life historic places in towns and villages spreading economic growth through tourism across England.'

Historic England plans to award Heritage Action Zone status to more towns, cities and villages over the next two years. Applications will open again in May 2017. Visit historicengland.org.uk/heritageactionzones

A couple with a toddler walking aloingside a steam engine
Elsecar Railway/Canal walk © Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Facts and figures

  • The most recent data from the British Retail Consortium reveals a shop vacancy rate of 9.4 per cent, which has remained stable since 2015. But the trade association says that in some parts of the country the number of empty shops remains worryingly high - a blot on the landscape of local communities.
  • Online shopping sales continue to grow year-on-year, according to the Office for National Statistics. In January 2017 the average weekly spend online was £1billion; an increase of 10.1% compared with January 2016.
  • Britain is experiencing a housing shortage. According to the Government's recent Housing White Paper, between 225,000 and 275,000 more homes are now needed per year to keep up with population growth and tackle years of under supply. Since the 1970s, 160,000 new homes have been supplied each year in England. Historic buildings should not be overlooked, when they can be converted into high-quality housing.
  • Recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that numbers of overseas visitors reached a record high in 2016 with 37.3million visits.
  • Research shows that eight million holidaymakers are planning a 'staycation' in the UK this summer.

General view from south across Hull marina
1884 Dock St Kitchen, Humber Dock St, Hull © Historic England DP174271

Heritage Action Zones

Appleby Heritage Action Zone in Cumbria will focus on boosting tourism following the devastating winter floods of 2015/16. To help the town's economy to recover, there are plans to repair important listed buildings such as the Keep at Appleby Castle. The town will also attract visitors through the creation of heritage trails and taking part in initiatives such as Heritage Open Days.

Coventry Heritage Action Zone in the West Midlands will help tackle issues around education, jobs, health and housing. Projects include potentially registering the city centre, making it one of only a handful post-war conservation areas in the country, and providing grants to improve historic buildings and shop fronts in Lady Herbert's Garden and the Burges conservation area, eventually removing it from the Heritage at Risk Register.

Elsecar Heritage Action Zone in South Yorkshire aims to unlock Elsecar's heritage, not just its industrial past with its ironworks and collieries, but the story of the village, its community and links to the Fitzwilliam family. The plan is to bring historic buildings back into use, identify suitable sites for new housing and encourage local people to get involved in the village's development.

Hull Heritage Action Zone in East Yorkshire aims to bring Hull's Old Town back to life by: Helping to find new uses for historic buildings; providing support, funding and guidance to developers to improve the provision of housing and create new residential units; and improve pedestrian access to the waterfront, city centre and museum quarter. Hull has been crowned the 'UK City of Culture 2017' but the Old Town is home to 40% of Hull's listed buildings and parts of it are at risk of being left behind.

King's Lynn Heritage Action Zone in North Norfolk will help kick-start economic growth by delivering new homes and jobs. Investment will be encouraged into the town centre and historic riverfront. It will also address an acute housing shortage by building new homes on former industrial land, while ensuring the character of King's Lynn's existing historic architecture is protected.

Nottingham Heritage Action Zone in Nottinghamshire will breathe new life into the town's vulnerable historic buildings and sites. Local people, school children and visitors alike will be encouraged to get involved in caring for and enjoying the city's heritage, for example, there are plans to open up Nottingham's hidden caves.

Ramsgate Heritage Action Zone in Kent aims to bring this declining seaside town back to life by repairing and conserving listed buildings, increasing demand for skilled workers and creating apprenticeships for local people. Georgian and Victorian buildings around the (country's only) Royal Harbour and in the Newington area, which was built for miners, will be brought back into use. The town will also seek to attract visitors by improving the site around the harbour.

Sunderland Heritage Action Zone in Tyne and Wear focuses on the Old Town and reconnecting it with the city centre. The aim is to extend the prosperity of the city centre outwards to the waterfront and on to the port. It will do this by finding new uses for historic buildings along the high street, restoring 'at risk' vacant listed buildings and improving the appeal of the area, to attract new businesses and create jobs.

Sutton Heritage Action Zone in South London aims to remove Sutton High Street from the 'at risk' Register. Sutton is on the verge of significant change as one of the 11 centres identified in the London Plan as an area for growth. It is already the fourth-largest hub in South London with 25,000 people visiting each day. Some 50 sites are going to be redeveloped which will include more than 5,000 new homes. The main objective is to preserve the character of Sutton by investing in and repairing historic buildings and reinstating traditional details of characterful buildings. New guidance and management policies will help to ensure that heritage is at the heart of new developments.

Weston-super-Mare Heritage Action Zone in North Somerset will focus on supporting the on-going regeneration of the town's centre - home to many Victorian, inter-war and post-war buildings. Plans include bringing buildings back into use as quality housing, developing clear heritage routes within the town centre to enhance existing trails through the town to the beach and train station, and opening up new pedestrian access to Weston Museum, the town square and the seafront.

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