High streets heritage action zones

A few days ago Historic England announced the High Streets Heritage Action Zones programme. This is designed to secure lasting improvements to historic high streets for the communities who use them.

How will it work?

A not-for-profit organisation (e.g. the local authority or a charitable trust) can apply for a grant of between £250,000 and £2m and use this to set up a partnership to champion the high street, change perceptions of heritage, deliver physical improvements and community activities. In most cases Historic England will expect to provide funding for around 50% of costs. Partnerships will run for four years (from 2020).

Applicants will need to demonstrate capacity to deliver and a commitment to work with a range of partners. If anyone other than the local authority applies then they need to demonstrate that they have the support of the local authority.

What’s it worth?

In addition to £44 million from government and Historic England to create High Streets Heritage Action Zones there is also funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a cultural programme to engage people in the life and history of their high streets, and from the Architectural Heritage Fund to support social enterprise organisations to take ownership of and bring buildings of local importance back into use. Total funding across these different pots is around £62million. So nationally dozens of high streets could benefit.

What does this mean for ACS members?

The important message for members is the key role that the community will play in these schemes.

Historic England says that High Streets Heritage Action Zone projects must be delivered with demonstrable support from the local community. Alnwick benefits from a wide variety of committed community groups, but there is always a risk that our different organisations will back a variety of competing initiatives.

Fragmentation gets us nowhere. So if Alnwick does go down the route of developing an Expression of Interest in a High Street Heritage Action Zone then we hope members will join us in offering support. And in encouraging others to line up – rather than promoting alternatives.

There is more guidance from Historic England <here>.

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