How the historic environment can be conserved and managed in a way that secures its future.

Heritage and the High Street: Recent Activity

The Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management working group have published a review of examples of research, toolkits and projects that promote a heritage led response to the changing face of the high street. The document is a first step towards identifying activity relating to Heritage and High Streets and can be found here: High Streets Activity Mapping

You can also now contribute your own knowledge and discuss with others activity relating to high streets by clicking here.

Heritage and the High Street: Which Way Now?

The future of our historic high streets is a key concern for the heritage sector as well as local communities, businesses and investors, and a Heritage 2020 priority.

The Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management working group held an event, on 6 December 2017, to explore current and emerging issues. It reviewed what’s working and what isn’t, and discussed how to tackle barriers to achieving good growth in historic centres.

The event brought together senior representatives in local government, the development industry, property sector landowners and policy makers with an interest in retail, high streets, town centres and heritage-led regeneration.

The event was kindly hosted by Trowers and Hamlins LLP in Birmingham.

The workshop was Chaired by Rachel Campbell of the British Property Federation and facilitated by Elizabeth Clare of Historic England.
See an overview of the workshop, Heritage and the High Street: Which Way Now?

The workshop developed an understanding of current issues through the presentation of four case studies.

Identity, place branding and marketing – Derby
Clive Fletcher, Principal Historic Places Adviser, Historic England

Innovative leadership – Great Yarmouth
Darren Barker, Great Yarmouth Building Preservation Trust

Planning – Birmingham Jewellery Quarter
Marcus Hawley, Director, Blackswan Property

Diversification – Sunderland
Les Clark, Chief Operating Officer, Place – Sunderland City Council

A record of the plenary and discussion sessions will be published early in 2018.


The Heritage 2020 Framework document outlines the vision and priorities for collaboration for each working group.

  • By 2020 there will be ever more effective management of the historic environment through the planning system.
  • The historic environment sector will continue to demonstrate its role in promoting economic growth and be increasingly recognised as a positive contributor.
  • We will have improved the resilience of historic assets to the impacts of climate change and social and economic forces for change.
  • Heritage’s owners and government will jointly recognise the need to fund maintenance adequately.
  • There will be a shared understanding of how best to adapt the built environment sympathetically, to secure its future and conserve its historic significance through new use.
  • The overall condition of the historic environment will be better than it is now and cherished assets will be in beneficial use. Heritage at Risk registers will help monitor progress.

Priorities for collaboration

The key priorities that were identified for collaborative action by the sector, working together are:

  • Ensuring systems of heritage protection that are the best than can be devised with the resources available.
  • Preventing and tackling heritage at risk through expertise and funding.
  • Contributing positively to the growth agenda.
  • Supporting landscape-scale management.
  • Resilience to social and economic forces for change.
  • Climate change resilience and energy efficiency.

The working group has identified the issues associated with these priorities, and has mapped activity in the sector. This has helped it to identify gaps that can be addressed by organisations working together. It has identified two priority areas (based on importance, urgency and achievability) that the group will work to address during 2016-17.

Priorities for 2016-17

1. Address the issue of the transfer and disposal of publicly owned heritage assets by collaborating on a package of guidance and support for local authorities, private developers and community groups.

2. Understand the impact of social and economic forces for change on High Streets and promote a heritage-led response to addressing the changing face of the high street.

Action Plan


January 2019 Update

The group continue to advocate for a heritage-led response to the current challenges facing our High Streets. They are also mapping the advice and guidance currently available on the transfer and disposal of publicly owned heritage assets.

6 June 2018

At its meeting on 6 June 2018, the group carried out a thorough review of its activities, to identify which actions were now complete.

They discussed the progress that has been made towards the publication of the asset transfer theory of change document and the associated mapping of sector activity against the stages in the theory of change. Final changes were agreed so that the documents can be published and shared with the sector more widely – as a means of sharing knowledge that the group has collated and asking for additional input to the mapping.

With reference to the ‘communications project’ to ensure better awareness of, and access to, guidance about the transfer of assets, the group discussed how the work aligns to a similar project commissioned by Historic England and how that project should generate a list of further research that could be sign-posted. The group decided that the brief for the communications project needs to be updated in the light of the Historic England project on guidance for community asset transfer.

Finally, group members carried out a last review of the document that collates information about recent activity focussing on the role of Heritage in the economic health of High Streets and identified a series of changes before publication and dissemination. The group also discussed a strategy for publishing the outputs of the December workshop on Heritage & the High Street, and the potential to work through other organisations to take forward this area of activity in the future.

The current Chair, Carol Pyrah indicated her intention to step back from the group after three years of chairing it – and was thanked for her leadership and facilitation of the group’s activities. Jonathan Thompson (Vice Chair) kindly agreed to become acting Chair.

1 March 2018

The group met on 1 March 2018. It discussed new activity relating to asset transfer/disposals to enable completion of the sector activity mapping. The group reviewed its work to scope a project to improve communication about the guidance available to support asset transfer in the light of a similar piece of work commissioned by Historic England for guidance on community asset transfer. This project will highlight the ways in which assets can be successfully transferred to communities and will include information on three pilot areas to generate a shared picture of Local Authorities activity. It is anticipated the work will be finished by early summer. 

With respect to its priority area of ‘the role of heritage in the economic health of high streets’, the group reviewed the notes from the workshop that took place in December 2017. They discussed how to present the information so that it is clearer to people who were not part of the workshop, and a need to draw out the barriers, potential solutions and next steps more explicitly.

11 October 2017
The group met on the 11.10.17 to discuss outstanding contributions to the mapping of sector asset transfer activity (guidance, etc.) necessary before the resource can be published. The draft proposal for a Communications Strategy/Exercise to improve access to information and guidance on the transfer of public heritage assets was reported to be similar to another proposal under development; the two will be reviewed to see if they should progress as one or two projects.

The group also discussed final plans for a workshop (scheduled for 6 December 2017) on the role of heritage in the regeneration of high streets and considered options for post-event communication. The workshop will now include a range of case studies to support the four discussion themes and it is hoped that issues raised at the workshop will be used in one of the forthcoming #HeritageChats.

22 June 2017
The group met on the 22nd June 2017, welcoming HLF’s Head of Evaluation, who gave a presentation on HLF’s approach to evaluation and discussed the use of case studies. The group discussed the need to frame questions that supported the identification of case studies to be used for future learning, particularly for the transfer of public heritage assets. The group reviewed a draft proposal for a Communications Strategy for improving access to information and guidance associated with the transfer of public heritage assets, which is to be developed further. The purpose of a workshop on the role of heritage in the regeneration of high streets was outlined, as were potential questions and participants. The group also commented on proposals for the Twitter Chat format for the Autumn H2020 engagement exercise and the proposed topics (digital, climate change, health and wellbeing) for the 2018 Foresight session.

8 March 2017
The group reviewed ‘orphan actions’ within the Activity Log and selected ‘case studies’ as a topic for the next meeting. They agreed to seek final input to its work to add activity relating to the transfer of publicly owned heritage assets to stages in the ‘theory of change’ model. This document is to be published on the Heritage 2020 website.

The group also considered feedback from the consultation and identified the difficult in signposting and accessing guidance around the transfer of publicly owned heritage assets as an issue to be addressed in 2017-18. It agreed to scope a project to create a communications strategy in order to achieve this.

Finally, the group reviewed the summary of ‘high streets’ resources and initiatives, and agreed that this should be restructured, added to, and made available in a format to which others can contribute their knowledge. It was agreed that a discussion workshop on high streets could be a theme for 2017-18.

3 August 2016
The meeting reviewed the group’s Activity Log (which captures sector activity against the areas identified in the Heritage 2020 Framework as priorities for collaboration) and then focused on each of the draft action plans that are being developed to support the issues of ‘transfer of publicly owned heritage assets’ and ‘resilience of high streets to social and economic forces for change’.
The group discussed the activities on which organisations could work together, and where additional resources was likely to be needed. Members of the group agreed to add content to both action plans so that a version, that included actions for 2016-17, could be shared with the other working group Chairs and Vice Chairs at the end of August and subsequently the Historic Environment Forum in September.