New £40m fund to save historic high streets announced

A new £40m Government funding package has been announced to regenerate historic high streets.

The package will be delivered by extending Historic England’s successful Heritage Action Zone initiative, which has already brought several historic high streets back into life, including Derby’s Cathedral Quarter (pictured).

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.

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.

Historic England expects that the headline investment announced by Government will be matched by public and private partners, ensuring it has a much greater impact and delivers long-term benefits.

Studies commissioned by Historic England, the British Retail Consortium and other bodies demonstrate 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.

The Grimsey Review 2 report, published earlier this year, recommended that all new developments in any town centre should create a sense of identity, which enhance the town’s historic character.

It also stated that principles for a thriving town centre include ‘high quality design which works with heritage – to maintain the overall identity of town centres’.

‘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,’ said arts and heritage minister, Michael Ellis.

‘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.’

Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson added: ‘We know that people value their historic high streets and town centres. Not only as spaces to meet but as places that tell fascinating stories of how our towns and cities grew and how local identity has been shaped by people and events.

‘But we cannot under-estimate the scale of the challenge with empty shops and a significant shift in retail trends, and the impact this 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.’

All pictures (C) Historic England.

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tony Hutchinson
Tony Hutchinson
5 years ago

Any investment in high streets should be welcomed. There needs to be a note of caution, one of the many challenges high streets face is the nature of the property. The small shop with living accommodation behind and above, or the lock up with offices or flats above is not necessarily the right building form for either modern retail or the “experience” based high street which is one fashionable nostrum.
Focused intervention based on economic/commercial value as well as aesthetic or heritage value is needed.
High streets need to evolve and to be encouraged to evolve in line with the current and future needs of the communities who use them.

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top