Frequently Asked Questions About High Streets Heritage Action Zones

Find out how High Streets Heritage Action Zones will benefit historic high streets across England.


The programme

A successful, vibrant high street acts as the focus of, not only local commerce, but also of the local community. They are one of the few places where people from all backgrounds can meet and engage with each other. Yet, we know from both news reports, and the evidence of our own eyes, that high streets are currently facing many challenges. Without intervention to adapt to these challenges they will continue to decline.

We have already created 20 Heritage Action Zones across the country. This is an initiative to breathe life into heritage rich but previously unloved places. With our network of local offices we are well placed to bring national insight and local understanding of challenges facing historic high streets and to find creative solutions bespoke to local communities. Our experience of delivering Heritage Action Zones through partnership working and grant schemes for conservation areas means we can move quickly and effectively.

It’s an initiative to create economic growth and improve quality of life in places. Working with local people and partners, including local authorities, Historic England is helping to breathe new life into old places that are rich in heritage and full of promise - unlocking their potential and making them more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors. We are doing this through joint-working, grant funding and sharing our skills.

HSHAZs is a partnership scheme. Applicants are local groups with a stake in their high streets. These include:

  • Local authorities;
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships;
  • Business Improvement Districts;
  • Local business people;
  • Neighbourhood Planning Bodies;
  • Local Places of Worships; and
  • Other local community groups.

The details of each individual high street are being worked up in the shape of a programme design now they have been selected. The need for each will be different and it will be important that the support delivered will fit those needs. However, programmes will include physical improvements and cultural activities to regenerate struggling high streets. We’ll be working with local partners to develop and deliver this.

The Government’s Future High Streets Fund is available for high streets and town centres, the focus of this scheme is historic high streets. Conservation areas exist to manage and protect the special architectural and historic interest of a place. By targeting these areas, the investment being made in the repair and regeneration of the historic environment will be better protected and its positive impact made more sustainable.

The money can be spent on:

The regeneration of historic buildings and the associated public realm, on or around high streets, using it as a catalyst for improving wider social, cultural, environmental and economic outcomes; and

An associated cultural programme focussed on working with communities and local cultural organisations in developing site-specific events designed to encourage local people to engage with the heritage on their high street.

Unfortunately we are unable to fund the purchase of buildings through the High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme.

However, if you as a local authority were planning to purchase the building as part of a wider high streets scheme, and it required eligible repair, reinstatement of architectural features, building conversion, etc. these costs could be then be included in the programme.

For buildings that are already in use and will be continuing with the same use after repair works, for example a shop where we are reinstating the historic shop front, we would not fund services except in exceptional circumstances, for example where the state of repair of current building services threatens the historic significance of a building.

However, if spaces within the building are being converted to a new use that will increase the sustainability of that building, then services would be eligible. For example if the space above a shop were to be converted to a flat and needed services installed to facilitate this. Services would be funded on a percentage. This percentage would be flexible in response to the needs of each individual building and would be discussed by successful applicants at the Programme Design phase.

Existing HAZs were eligible for bidding to become High Streets Heritage Action Zones, but they were assessed against an entirely independent set of criteria from those used for the wider Heritage Action Zone programme. Any works/projects/outputs would have to be completely discrete for both schemes, and not using Historic England funds from any PSiCA/existing HAZ programme, as match for any High Streets works/projects/outputs, or vice versa.

Heritage Action Zone, Partnership Schemes in Conservation Areas or other Historic England grant funding cannot be used to match fund each other.

Our high streets scheme is part of the government’s ongoing work to help high streets through the Future High Streets Fund. This scheme’s funding includes £92 million of Government funding for High Streets Heritage Action Zones and £3 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a cultural programme to engage people in the life and history of their high street.

All three funds represent elements of the £675 million pot that the Chancellor announced in October last year. Each fund will be sharing a single definition of what a high street is. They also share a single over-arching objective – the regeneration of high streets, though each are seeking to achieve that in different ways.

Because of those connections it is likely that partners will have bid for money from more than one of the funds. Organisations who have applied to the Future High Streets Fund could also apply to this programme, but the capital works for which funding is sought must be discrete and separate for each funding programme. For example, applications were acceptable for capital works to refurbish historic buildings and to improve the public realm on high streets where the FHSF is also providing financial support for transport infrastructure improvements for the same street. Conversely, applications to the HSHAZ programme will have been rejected in instances where they are seeking funding for capital works for which FHSF grant aid has been provided. HSHAZ grant cannot be used as partnership funding for FHSF grant or vice versa.

The Impact

The programme will use investment in our historic high streets as a tool for improving the social, cultural, and economic outcomes of the area. It will revitalize selected high streets by maximizing the potential of local character and heritage assets.

Funding will support both the regeneration of heritage assets and the wider public realm, and the development of community based cultural activities designed to develop high streets as hubs for local cultural, retail and commercial engagement. The programme has three investment objectives that shape all activities to be carried out as part of the programme:

  • Changing perceptions of heritage and high streets.
  • Supporting sustainable economic and cultural growth on and around high streets.
  • Restoring and enhancing local historic character.

Applicants had to demonstrate that they have support from the local community. The scheme includes funding for community engagement activities.