A high street building photographed before and after restoration. On the left, the building has white painted render and on the right, the render has been removed to reveal old brick.
24-25 The Burges, Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone, before and after renovation © Historic England
24-25 The Burges, Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone, before and after renovation © Historic England

Coventry: A Demonstrator Project for the HSHAZ Programme

Part of the Heritage Counts series. 2 minute read.

This evaluation focuses on the impact of the Coventry Demonstrator High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) project, a £2 million heritage-led regeneration project on the Burges and Hales Street, Coventry. It is part of the HSHAZ programme delivered by Historic Coventry Trust in partnership with Coventry City Council and the local business improvement district.

The Coventry HSHAZ project aimed to conserve the built heritage and ensure the Burges and Hales Street is a vibrant and thriving area of Coventry that is valued by the community.

What did the project deliver?

During the project:

  • 14 historic buildings were repaired
  • 16 historic shopfronts were restored
  • Public realm improvements were made

Investing in several buildings in one area of Coventry and having a unified design and palette has improved the overall appearance and character of the high street.

As a result of this successful project, Coventry City Council has transferred ownership of the buildings to the Historic Coventry Trust. This secures a positive future for the historic high street.

What impact did the project have?

The evaluation found that the project has increased place attractiveness. For instance, removing external shutters on the shopfronts opened the streetscape and created a more welcoming environment.

Quantitative evidence suggests that investment in heritage can increase dwell time on the high street. For example, the average weekly visit duration for the high street was under 2 hours in 2019. The dwell time has increased by 17 minutes to approximately 2 hours and 8 minutes in 2023. Further, footfall in the area has remained stable compared to a national decline.

Data from stakeholder interviews and surveys indicates an increase in civic pride, sense of place, and connection to local history. For example, people have reported that the project catalysed ‘changing perceptions of the area and grow[ing] an appreciation for its history’ with ‘younger generations connecting more easily with the history of the city’ (project participant feedback).

What lessons have been learnt from this project?

The key lessons include:

  • The importance of having an embedded local delivery partner
  • The need for flexible grant rates
  • The need for an emphasis on integrating evaluation from the project inception
  • The need for high quality before and after photos

Overall, the Coventry HSHAZ project shows how heritage-led regeneration and investment into the historic built environment can catalyse economic and social benefits for the high street.

Owners and tenants told us: ‘customers constantly comment that it’s much better’ (owner and tenant feedback). The restored historic buildings and streetscape have made this area of Coventry more vibrant, engaging, and resilient.

This technical evaluation report was commissioned by Historic England’s Socio-Economic Analysis and Evaluation team. You can access the report below to read more details on this project.