High Streets Heritage Action Zones

Published: Thursday, June 6, 2019


Churches are being urged to take part in a new scheme to help historic high streets.

With high streets changing fast, churches remain key buildings in the urban landscape. Many of them have been a focal point for local people for hundreds of years and important for civic and community purposes as well as for worship. Increasingly, churches are becoming ‘community hubs’, and hosting a wide range of activities.

In London, St James in West Hampstead is home to a post office and a children’s soft play area, St Andrews in Yarpole, Herefordshire hosts a community shop and in Derby seven churches take it between themselves to run a Churches Night shelter for rough sleepers. These are just a fraction of the many other churches and chapels who take part in, and run such initiatives.

Future High Streets Fund

In the 2018 Autumn Budget Statement, the government announced its plans to establish a £675m ‘Future High Streets Fund’, the purpose of which is to ‘help local leaders implement bold new visions to transform their town centres and make them fit for the future’.  £55m of that fund has been targeted at historic high streets, with Historic England receiving £40m for its High Streets Heritage Action Zones programme.

High Streets HAZs will deliver a four-year programme of physical improvements, community engagement and cultural activities to revive England’s struggling historic high streets and town centres. Historic England will be working closely with a variety of local partners, including local authorities, Business Improvement Districts, Chambers of Commerce, community groups and cultural organisations to deliver positive change; supporting high streets adapt to the challenges they face by investing in their local heritage.

High Streets HAZs will target high streets in conservation areas, ensuring management of their special architectural and historic interest. In this way, the investment being made in the repair and regeneration of the historic environment can be better protected and its positive impact made more sustainable. Each High Streets HAZ will also include cultural programme of site-specific events. The purpose of this will be to help change people’s perception of the heritage on their high street by encouraging increased engagement.

Places of worship at their heart

Many historic high streets have places of worship at their heart. Some of these have been supported by grants from the National Churches Trust, including Hull Minster and Kings Lynn Minster. They contribute to the character of the place and the communities that use it.

Therefore, any high street that is considering bidding to be part of the High Streets HAZ programme would benefit from having the contribution of any local place of worship reflected in their bid. Historic England is currently inviting Expressions of Interest. Although most of these will be led by local authorities, any place of worship wishing to be part of any planned bid should approach their local authority to find out whether they know about the programme and whether they are considering submitting a bid. In that way churches can continue to be a key part of the English high street.

If you want to know more, go to www. historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/heritage-action-zones/regenerating-historic-high-streets/