Heritage high streets get £62m boost
High street buildings are to be turned into creative spaces thanks to a new £62m government fund, the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport has announced.
The new Transforming Places Through Heritage Programme, culture secretary Jeremy Wright said, will be used to regenerate high streets in an age when shopping habits have changed but shopping centres remain at the heart of our communities.
The initiative is part of the government's plan for high streets announced in last year’s Budget, including a £675 million Future High Streets Fund and a £1 billion business rates discount for small high street retailers.
“Our heritage makes communities more attractive places to live, work and visit” said Wright. “This £62 million investment will breathe new life into high streets right across the country, benefiting local people and businesses, as well as providing assistance to much-loved historic buildings.
“It is right that we do all we can to not only protect our heritage, but make it work for modern life so it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.”
The announcement follows the year-long DCMS-commissioned Cultural Cities Enquiry, chaired by Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia, which in February called for the creation of “Cultural City Compacts” to draw on the resources of culture, business, education and local leaders – crucially with financial support from national government - to embed the arts and culture in civic life. The result, the enquiry reported, would be a regeneration of high streets and post-industrial quarters, with creative clusters, supporting local creative talent, developing tourist revenue and building civic engagement.
Research has shown that for every £1 invested in heritage in England, £1.60 is brought into the wider area.
The funding includes £44 million to create dozens of High Streets Heritage Action Zones overseen by Historic England, with local authorities able to apply to the scheme and get expert advice on bringing historic buildings back into use and help historic high streets adapt to new challenges.
In addition, the Heritage Lottery Fund is to invest £3 million in a cultural programme to engage people in the life and history of their high streets, and the funding includes £15 million for the Architectural Heritage Fund to support social enterprise organisations like Historic Coventry Trust to bring buildings of local importance - such as pubs, libraries or theatres as well as shops - back into use.
The Transforming Places Through Heritage Programme will open for applications in June“We know that people value their high streets and town centres as spaces where they can meet and feel a sense of communal ownership and belonging. We are therefore delighted to be opening up for applications grants for High Street Heritage Action Zones” said Duncan Wilson, CEO of Historic England.
“Through physical improvements and cultural and community activities, we will work with partners to find new ways to regenerate our historic high streets. We recognise the scale of the challenge with empty shops and the significant shift in retail trends and we will combine our experience with the knowledge and passion of local councils, businesses and community groups, to help revive the streets which form the hearts of our historic towns.”