Busy beach with sea wall and Victorian terraces lining the seafront above the beach.
Busy beach with holiday-makers enjoying the sunny weather at the marine lake at Weston-super-Mare © Historic England Archive DP236231
Busy beach with holiday-makers enjoying the sunny weather at the marine lake at Weston-super-Mare © Historic England Archive DP236231

Heritage Action Zones: Breathing New Life Into Old Places

Historic England’s Heritage Action Zones are designed to unleash the power of the historic environment, creating conditions for economic growth and improving the quality of life in villages, towns and cities across England

We have been busy unlocking hidden potential by working with local people and partners, invigorating old and familiar places that are rich in heritage and full of promise to make them more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors. All this has been done through joint-working, grant funding and sharing our skills and knowledge.

The Heritage Action Zones programme has given 18 places a new lease of life, with a further two locations completing in 2024. Historic buildings that were deteriorating through decades of neglect have been restored and put back into use, providing employment and volunteering opportunities; conservation areas have been improved, kick-starting regeneration and renewal that has helped attract significant investment and meet local housing targets; and unsung places are now being recognised and celebrated for their unique character and heritage.

Helping to shape projects with local authorities and communities in these places has involved new and exciting ways of working, sharing knowledge, skills and helping to address significant long-term issues like climate change. Heritage Action Zones show that, with the right combination of people, place and vision, it’s possible to deliver transformational change for people and heritage.

Heritage Action Zones completed in 2021 to 2024

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Eden District Council and Appleby Town Council

Appleby Heritage Action Zone has invested in the Castle Keep, St Lawrence’s Railings, The Moot Hall, the High and Low Crosses and will soon to support repairs to the Cloisters, amongst other local buildings.

Architectural research has contributed to the newly adopted Conservation Area Assessment and Management Plan. The town’s information boards have been renewed, including new illustrations by a local artist.

The impetus provided by grants and specialist advice, galvanised through whole-hearted collaboration between the local community and partners, has transformed this beautiful Cumbrian market town.

Fighting climate change in Appleby

  • Duration: 5 years, 2018-2023
  • Partners: Durham County Council and local partners

The Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) set out to address long-term decline in town centre vitality and the condition of historic buildings, helping to improve local people’s lives. Working with local partners through an advisory group, Durham County Council is overseeing diversification of the town centre towards a visitor economy.

  • The total spent by September 2023 was £1,739,554 with a total forecast by September 2024 of over £2.5 million, plus another £2.5 million levered in from private owners.
  • High profile projects include a Historic England book on the town’s history and growth, historical research, designation reviews, a new Local List, skills and schools work, and extensive community engagement including a now annual Heritage Festival. There was a £1.1 million Conservation Area Grant Scheme, several restored public realm assets, and the scheduled monument West Mural Tower removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.
  • The HAZ led to a community better connected to its past, including the Bishops Shop celebrating local amateur footballing heritage. Eight buildings have been repaired with more to come, all in vibrant new uses.
  • Whilst empty properties remain a stubborn problem, Durham County Council and Town Board partners have secured at least £53 million of further funding. The HAZ helped create long term momentum towards transformation of the town’s fortunes.

Supporting community heritage projects in Bishop Auckland

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Coventry City Council, City of Culture Trust, Historic Coventry Trust, Coventry Cathedral, Culture Coventry, Coventry and Warwickshire LEP, and Coventry University.

With Coventry’s tenure as UK City of Culture falling within the Coventry Heritage Action Zone, the provision of new and exciting heritage destinations and services has been timely. With the Heritage Action Zone boundary taking in an area within the 20% most deprived in England, opportunities to use heritage-led generation to boost prosperity have been seized.

Key achievements include:

  • The transformation of gems such as the Charterhouse and Draper’s Hall into a heritage attraction and music venue
  • The repair of Coventry’s medieval walls and gates, which have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register, with the latter being converted into boutique holiday lets – as have the cottages on Priory Row
  • Community events and exhibitions have shone a light on Coventry’s mid-century modern buildings as well as surviving medieval heritage
  • The international symposium on concrete and 20th-century churches

The Heritage Action Zone has helped to ‘transform Coventry through heritage’ – a dynamic partnership that also included the local civic society, university, cathedral and other community groups.

Coventry has a second Heritage Action Zone, a High Street Heritage Action Zone, based around The Burges, which has been the pilot for a national scheme, showing what heritage-led regeneration can do.

Boosting tourism in Coventry

Learn about Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone

  • Duration: 5 years, 2018-2023
  • Partners: Kirklees Council 

Dewsbury was a real rags to riches story as the home of recycling in Britain, collecting woollen rags from across the world to recycle into new cloth. Dewsbury also has a strong market tradition dating back to the 14th century but like many market towns, the centre is in decline and needs a new focus.

Just as old clothes were remade into new ones, the HAZ has helped to remake the image of the town. Regeneration must keep the best of the town's characterful buildings and spaces and add in new to make a place for the whole population to use and enjoy.

Research has highlighted the significant architectural legacy of the 19th-century textile industry, particularly the tall stone Italianate warehouses that line Bond Street and Wellington Road.

The most significant parts of this evidence include:

  • medieval/post-medieval street form of Northgate, Westgate and Daisy Hill and their surviving 18th- and early 19th-century buildings
  • large-scale textile warehouses of Wellington Street and Bond Street which reflect the growth of the textile recycling industry and urban design responses to it in the later 19th century
  • the civic and commercial buildings built to service this growth industry and the communities that supported it

The national importance of Dewsbury’s architectural heritage was recognised by new listing of many of the original 19th-century buildings. The influence of the textile industry and the wealth it generated goes far beyond the mills themselves.

Highlights also include the expansive Heritage Schools Programme and the legacy of the educational material that it generated about the town.

Bringing local heritage into Dewsbury Classrooms

  • Duration: 3 years
  • Partner: Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

The Heritage Action Zone has completely transformed our understanding of Elsecar, now recognised as a unique early model industrial village created by the Earls Fitzwilliam from the 1790s onwards.

Extensive research and fieldwork through the Heritage Action Zone created a detailed picture of Elsecar as a planned industrial landscape and estate village. It included collieries, workshops, ironworks, a canal and railway, as well as housing for workers, a church, school, miners’ lodging house, pubs, shops, a cricket club and park – the majority of which still survive. Read the illustrated report.

The research has led to key outputs including:

  • New listings and planning policy and guidance, developed by Barnsley Council with support from Historic England
  • Emerging plans for growth and recovery based on heritage and culture

The Heritage Action Zone delivered community activities, including community excavations, student research placements, and guided walks and events, with residents and visitors coming together to explore and celebrate the village and discuss its future care and growth.


Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • Duration: 5 years, 2018 to 2023
  • Partners: Historic England, North East Lincolnshire Council, Associated British Ports, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, local businesses and third sector organisations

The Greater Grimsby Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) was part of an important package of regeneration plans that encompassed the Kasbah, Alexandra Dock and the town centre. 

  • 11 empty and neglected buildings on the Kasbah have been repaired and brought back into use. The Kasbah is a historic portside area of smoke houses, shops and warehouses associated with the fishing industry
  • In the town centre the West Haven Maltings are being repaired and developed to create the Onside Horizon Youth Zone. The Cooperage was brought back into reuse, creating 24 new housing units in the Central Grimsby Conservation Area
  • A vibrant new space for events and activities has been created around St James's Minster
  • Advice and support was provided to the owners of the Ice Factory to find a sustainable future for this important building at risk which stands at the gateway to the Kasbah
  • Residents and businesses have found new opportunities to benefit from their local heritage, and visitors can now discover a warmer welcome and a rewarding experience in Grimsby
  • Historic England's research and listing staff investigated Grimsby's historic buildings. Informed by historic documents held by Association British Ports (ABP), their findings have enriched local archives

To date, Historic England has contributed £354,366 towards the partnership scheme to regenerate the Kasbah, and a further £289,000 of grant funding to get other projects off the ground. HAZ projects will continue into 2024.

Reusing buildings to create new housing in Grimsby

Explore Grimsby's heritage through aerial photos

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partner: Hull City Council

The Hull Old Town Heritage Action Zone was developed on the foundations laid by City of Culture 2017, and the accompanying regeneration of key cultural and community facilities such as the Ferens Art Gallery, New Theatre and Trinity Markets, alongside a major public realm scheme.

Several projects were delivered through the Heritage Action Zone scheme, including a community archaeology initiative at the South Blockhouse (part of Hull’s medieval fortifications) to the regeneration of the Georgian Trinity House complex.

Grant funding supported the area of Whitefriargate and Silver Street, one of the key thoroughfares through Hull’s Old Town. Grants also enabled the repair of 16 buildings, including:

  • The connected Trinity House properties from 1 to 9 Whitefriargate
  • 15 Whitefriargate, the former Kardomah Café, now home to Wrecking Ball Music & Books, an independent business selling vinyl records, books, with a café and events venue
  • 55 Whitefriargate, a former HSBC Bank premises, now converted to serviced offices, a bar, pizzeria and Gin School

There have been two Heritage Action Zones in Hull. The second one, the Hull Whitefriargate High Street Heritage Action Zone is still in progress, helping to re-position Whitefriargate as a family-friendly destination through the development of new leisure activities, cafes and restaurants.

Supporting businesses in Hull

Learn about Whitefriargate High Street Heritage Action Zone

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, The Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP, West Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, King’s Lynn Town Centre Partnership & BID and Norfolk County Council.

King’s Lynn Heritage Action Zone has focused on researching the rich heritage of the town and engaging with the local community to understand the importance of this historic trading port.

Research resulted in a new understanding of key sites including Southgates, Chapel Street and Common Staithe Quay. The findings will inform their future development.

The new research was also shared with the public via online webinars and used as a catalyst to inspire and engage local school children, teaching them about the heritage of the town through hands-on arts and cultural activities under Historic England’s Heritage Schools programme.

Students from the College of West Anglia, together with Historic England and the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk co-produced Building on the Past, a short film telling the story of King’s Lynn’s Chapel Street.

Also, as part of the Heritage Action Zone, 2 buildings are now listed at Grade II: one of England’s earliest reinforced concrete buildings at 33 to 39 St James Street (presently the premises for Kwik Fit) and the former Lloyd's Bank at Tuesday Market Place.

Connecting communities in King's Lynn

Learn about the King's Lynn Heritage Action Zone

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Nottingham City Council and Creative Quarter

The Nottingham Heritage Action Zone has delivered a range of exciting projects since it began in 2017, including:

  • The Birkin Building in the Lace Market has been converted to offices for creative industries, with the help of HAZ funding for important repairs
  • Bromley House, a private subscription library just off the Market Square has had a new roof, helping to safeguard the wonderful collection of books and enabled greater use of the building
  • The Urban Room, one of the first in the UK, now provides a space at 38 Carrington St where the city’s past and future can be learned about and discussed by local people and visitors
  • New listed status and protection has been given to a number of important buildings, including Richmond House on Canal Street and the Raleigh cycle company’s former offices at the Marcus Garvey Centre. Also, 14 historic shop fronts are being renovated
  • 14 historic shop fronts are being reinstated

Increasing housing in Nottingham


Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Thanet District Council, Ramsgate Town Council, the Ramsgate Coastal Community Team and the Ramsgate Society

The many successes of the Ramsgate Heritage Action Zone include:

  • New research to better understand the history, heritage and changing face of this dynamic coastal town resulting in the listing of nine historic sites and a popular Historic England book Ramsgate: The town and its seaside heritage
  • Public steps restored with Pugin-inspired tiles designed by local school children
  • Repairs to the town’s notable Pulhamite artificial rock and iconic Clock House
  • A seaside memory project and podcast

Ramsgate’s conservation area covers the whole town and needed reviewing. The Heritage Action Zone funded an appraisal, community consultation, a guide with practical advice for residents and businesses, and advice on climate considerations.

The Heritage Action Zone has attracted substantial additional funding, which will continue to improve the town for those who live or work there, and visitors too.

Ramsgate has a second Heritage Action Zone. Ramsgate’s High Street Heritage Action Zone is seeking to transform some historic buildings, make improvements to the High Street and re-purpose empty buildings for creative and community use.

Learn about Ramsgate's High Street Heritage Action Zone

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Rochdale Borough Council; The Cooperative Heritage Trust; The Cooperative College; Rochdale Boroughwide Housing; Your Trust (formerly Link4Life); Rochdale Development Agency; Rochdale BID

For 5 years, the Rochdale Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) focussed on the historic route between the town centre and the railway station.

The programme delivered investment in properties on South Parade, Church Street and Drake Street, bringing buildings back into use, creating new residential properties, supporting local businesses and improving the buildings’ condition and appearance.

The area originally developed as a commercial, cultural, social and civic focal point of the town and contains examples of impressive Georgian, Victorian and early 20th-century architecture. It also has strong connections to the Cooperative Movement.

The programme involved extensive research into the history and heritage of the town, including the completion of an historic area assessment. Using this, it delivered a series of events and activities, engaging schools, university students and the public, including the Rochdale Uprising Mural Festival.

You can find out more about the history and significance of the area in the Historic England research report.

  • Duration: 5 years, 2018-2023
  • Partners: Darlington Borough Council, Durham County Council, Stockton Borough Council, Tees Valley Combined Authority, Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway, Science Museum Group (Locomotion), A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, Network Rail, Northern Rail, Virgin Trains, Hitachi, Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) was established to help rejuvenate and restore the historic railway and to help realise its potential to become a major heritage attraction and visitor destination in the build up to its 2025 bicentenary.

  • The HAZ covered the 26 miles of the railway from Witton Park, through Shildon, Darlington and Stockton. The Railway opened in 1825 and was the birthplace of the modern railway system, using innovative technology to carry both passengers and freight.
  • Research projects include reports on the Goods Depot, Lime Depot and Carriage Works in Darlington’s Railway Heritage Quarter. At Shildon, the development of the Science Museum’s Locomotion museum was supported by assessments of the railway town and the Coal Drops.
  • 32 buildings and sites were listed, including the Grade I Skerne Bridge, the world’s oldest operational railway bridge, and Grade II* Heighington Station, possibly the world’s first.
  • Historic England spent £516,554 on research, reporting, community engagement, volunteering, project management and capital works. The HAZ levered in a further £39,446,113, with significant National Lottery Heritage Fund and Levelling Up Fund support to the Railway Heritage Quarter, the expansion of Locomotion and the construction of a walking and cycling route along the line.
  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Sunderland City Council, Churches Conservation Trust, Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust, Sunderland Heritage Forum and Sunderland Culture

Through the Sunderland Heritage Action Zone, 13 buildings have been repaired, including Hutchinson’s Buildings and 170 to 175 High Street West, enabling new independent shops to open and create space for a music and culture venue known as Pop Recs.

Eight buildings have been brought back into use, through collaborative work which was captured in five films that highlight the successes and challenges of the Partnership Grant Scheme.

Furthermore, the Heritage Action Zone has seen the removal of the Grade I listed Church of Holy Trinity from the Heritage at Risk Register.

More than 2,000 people have attended heritage-related events, including a Heritage Schools programme and 150 volunteers have been involved in the scheme.

Several investigative reports were published (three building assessments; a Historic Area Assessment and an aerial photography report) that helped Historic England to update five entries on the National Heritage List for England. Finally, a pilot research project is exploring whether heritage can improve people’s wellbeing.

More about Sunderland's successes

  • Duration: 3 years
  • Partners: Sutton Borough Council, Successful Sutton Business Improvement District, and Carshalton and District History and Archaeology Society

As part of the Sutton Heritage Action Zone, Historic England commissioned research which sets out how Sutton has grown and developed, particularly since the arrival of the railway in 1847.

On Historic England’s advice, five local landmarks were given listed status and Sutton Baptist Church and St Nicholas Church had their listings upgraded. Conservation specialists restored the famous cockerel sign – newly listed – with the work match-funded by Historic England.

Grants were also made available to shop owners to restore and enhance their historic buildings, which resulted in repairs to four key properties.

  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Southwark Council, The Walworth Society, London South Bank University, Southwark and Lambeth Archaeological Excavation Committee, Creation Southwark, St Peter’s Church, local schools, MOLA, Lendlease, and Notting Hill Genesis

The Walworth Heritage Action Zone set out to use the high street’s history as a catalyst to support economic growth, and to highlight the area’s historic character as one of its key assets. A range of projects were delivered including:

  • Repair and restoration of the Grade II listed former Kennedy’s Sausage Shop at 305 Walworth Road, allowing it to be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register
  • Walworth Stories created by The Walworth Society, covering a wide variety of research and events focused around the area’s local history, communities and historic characters
  • Training volunteers which resulted in 64 historic sites added to the local list
  • Postgraduate dissertations by London South Bank University students focused on the impacts of change in the area and the restoration of the fire-damaged town hall
  • The conservation area extended to include the historic East Street Market
  • Historic England’s Heritage Schools programme trained teachers in how to use local heritage to support learning
  • The Cuming Archive catalogued and rehoused at Southwark Heritage Centre
  • Duration: 5 years
  • Partners: Weston Town Council, Weston super Mare Civic Society, Weston Museum, Weston Town Centre Partnership Bid, Weston College, Weston Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses (Weston Branch), Voluntary Action North Somerset and Heart of Weston Public Health Team

The Weston-super-Mare Heritage Action Zone has helped to further advance Weston-super-Mare’s reputation as a great place to live, work, study and visit.

Research carried out at the beginning of the Heritage Action Zone fed into many public celebrations, exhibitions and activities such as guided walks, and a popular Historic England book Weston super Mare: The town and its seaside heritage. An ambitious arts and culture programme helped to challenge negative perceptions of the town by engaging ever wider audiences with the town’s heritage.

The focus of longstanding regeneration efforts shifted from the seafront to the Victorian town centre, aided by a newly created Conservation Area. The Railway Station and WHSmith’s on the high street were also designated as listed buildings.

Several other historic buildings and notable 20th-century premises benefitted from grants to restore their former grandeur, including the 1950s shopfront of local retailer Walker and Ling, achieving a local Civic Society Award in 2022.

A programme of improved public places, streets and spaces has also been delivered through the partnership.

Learn about the achievements of the Great Weston Heritage Action Zone

Weston-super-Mare has a second Heritage Action Zone still running. Building on the achievements above, Weston-super-Mare’s High Street Heritage Action Zone is focused on the town’s 20th-century extension and its distinctive architectural heritage.

Learn about Weston-super-Mare’s High Street Heritage Action Zone


Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

Historic England support

If you think Historic England can help you put a plan together to unleash the power of your historic place, then please get in touch with your local regional office to talk your proposal through.

These are some of the services we are providing to the Heritage Action Zones:

  • Research into historic sites or buildings (for example, to identify the significance of a place or find a technical solution to a problem)
  • Funding, including Repair Grants for listed buildings, scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens
  • Advice on repairing and finding new uses for buildings
  • Advice on planning policy
  • Condition surveys of buildings and monuments
  • Historic Area Assessments to understand and explain the heritage interest of an area, and characterisation reports
  • Help with updating entries on the National Heritage List for England, the official register of protected historic buildings and sites (this can offer clarity about where change is possible)
  • Training in how to assess the significance of historic places
  • Help with identifying places that could be listed (this can help to inform and facilitate decisions on the future of an area)
  • Help with engaging local communities
  • Networks and contacts that may bring other key players to the table