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

Heritage and the High Street

The Heritage 2020 Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management working group has been focusing on how a heritage led response can help to address the social and economic challenges faced by high streets.

The historic buildings that are found in many of England’s high streets provide spaces for commerce, social enterprise and community activity. As traditional retail, the dominant feature of most high streets, faces huge challenges we look at how heritage can support regeneration and economic growth, and provide welcoming local places to live, work and visit. 

Programmes of investment in historic high streets

In September 2019, the UK Government announced that £95 million would be made available to help revive 69 historic high streets across England. This would be delivered through a variety of initiatives which are outlined below:

High Streets Heritage Action Zones

In 2019, Historic England launched a multi-million-pound fund to work with partners to find new ways to champion and revive historic high streets across England. The 69 high streets have now been selected to receive funding.

In each Heritage Action Zone, initiatives will be undertaken to create economic growth and improve quality of life. Historic England will work with local authorities, local enterprise schemes and local communities to breathe new life into old places and to unlock new potential in each zone.

Find out more about the programme here, including a map showing the locations of the high streets across England that are receiving funding.

There is also a dedicated FAQs page about High Streets Heritage Action Zones

Cultural Programme

Plans are now also underway for each of the Heritage Action Zones to benefit from a cultural programme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and supported by Arts Council. This will encourage people to engage in the life and history of their high streets. A cultural programme will be developed with local communities and cultural organisations to celebrate what is unique about each place. More information is available here.

Transforming places through Heritage

This programme from the Architectural Heritage Fund focuses on reviving individual heritage buildings that are in or will be transferred to community ownership. It will support charities and social enterprises in finding new ways to bring life to redundant or underused historic buildings in town centres. A variety of grants are available including:

  • Project Viability Grants (up to £15,000)
  • Project Development Grants (up to £100,000)
  • Crowdfunding Challenge Grants (up to £25,000)
  • Transformational Project Grants (up to £350,000)
  • Community Shares Booster Grants (more details soon)

The programme will focus on areas where there is already planned strategic regeneration, such as in a Heritage Action Zone. More information about the programme can be found here.

High Streets Task Force

The establishment of a new High Streets Task Force was announced in July 2019 to support local leaders in revitalising high streets and town centres. The Task Force is an alliance of experts who provide tailored guidance and advice to local authorities and communities as they try to find new roles for their high streets in a changing climate. The group is run by the Institute of Place Management on behalf of government. You can find further information including support, resources and webinars on the High Streets Task Force website.

Information on the partners that form the ‘alliance of place making experts’ behind the Task Force can be found here.

September 2019 #HeritageChat on ‘What non-funding support could help to regenerate Historic High Streets?’

In this chat, the group chose to discuss what non-funding support could help local authorities and communities to regenerate their historic high streets. Participants looked at what role national organisations could play in this and what skills gaps there are that inhibit progress. Throughout the chat, excellent examples were shared of communities coming together to support their local high streets. You can read a full summary here.

June 2019 #HeritageChat on ‘Heritage and the High Street’

In this Twitter chat, participants discussed what information is currently available for communities wishing to get more involved in the future of their high streets and what is missing in this regard. A popular talking point was Historic England’s newly announced High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme and how its funding should be targeted to maximise impact. You can catch up on all the discussions in our summary here. 

December 2017 #HeritageChat on ‘Heritage and High Streets – Which way next?’

This Twitter chat followed on from the group’s workshop and encouraged participants to share their knowledge and expertise on the role that Heritage plays in the economic health of High Streets and town centres. It covered the following questions:

  • What are the main issues affecting historic high streets and town centres at the moment?
  • Where are there examples of heritage contributing to the economic success of high streets and town and city centres that can be shared with the sector?
  • What examples are there of barriers to achieving economic growth in historic high streets and town centres?
  • How can a town’s heritage be used inclusively in towns with diverse populations i.e. used positively to highlight common experiences rather than divisively to say ‘we were here first’?
  • How does the heritage sector account for its contribution (if any) to social inclusion and aspects of quality of life via high street regeneration projects?
  • How can the heritage sector create synergies with the Green Infrastructure agenda and contribute to urban place-making?

You can read a full summary of the discussion here.

Heritage and the High Street: Which Way Now?

The 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 positive 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. It helped to develop 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

The event was kindly hosted by Trowers and Hamlins LLP in Birmingham and was Chaired by Rachel Campbell of the British Property Federation and facilitated by Elizabeth Clare of Historic England.
See an outline of the workshop, Heritage and the High Street: Which Way Now?

Heritage and the High Street: Mapping Activity

    The 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: High Streets Activity Mapping

    You can also now contribute your own knowledge and examples on our online noticeboard below or by clicking here.

    Made with Padlet

    Find out more about the group’s other activities here