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From Reading to Ryde, 7 historic high streets across the South East have been offered Government funding to give them a new lease of life and help them recover from declining footfall and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The £95million government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) programme, which is delivered by Historic England, will unlock the potential of 68 high streets, fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery. The lead partners for the schemes (mostly local authorities) are working with Historic England to develop and deliver schemes that will transform and restore disused and dilapidated buildings into new homes, shops, workplaces and community spaces, restoring local historic character and improving public realm.

The High Streets Heritage Action Zone initiative is funded with £40 million from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport’s Heritage High Street Fund and £52 million from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Future High Street Fund. A further £3 million will be provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a cultural programme.

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Ryde has been awarded £480,000 with the aim that the regeneration of Ryde High Street will seek to deliver wider benefits for the Isle of Wight as a whole.

Ryde’s high quality Georgian and Victorian architecture, reflecting its heyday when the Royal Family were frequent visitors to the Island and popularised it for holidays, is now suffering. A dedicated pedestrian zone is planned as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone, alongside investment in a number of key buildings which will help restore historic character. Guidance and feasibility studies will support bringing empty buildings into new uses that support the vitality of the town centre.

Opportunities to increase visitor accommodation, offer ‘creative space’ for innovative new businesses and cafes that will help attract visitors and contribute to the community character will all be explored.

Newport has been awarded £655,000. The High Street Heritage Action Zone will seek to build on the regeneration work already carried out by the community, with aims including making the High Street a place that everybody living here wants to use and visit, and increasing residential accommodation within the town centre. Improvements will be made to the paving and highways, creating a ‘people first zone’, as well as funding design guidance to ensure future development improves the area’s historic character. Studies will consider what’s needed to bring empty buildings and space into new use and a few key buildings will receive grant funding to restore their historic appearance and bring vitality back into the town centre.

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“High streets sit at the heart of our communities and every part of the country deserves to have one they can be proud of. This fund will help breathe new life into high streets in towns and cities across the country – restoring them to their full glory so that they are beautiful places for people to shop, work and enjoy.”

Emily Gee, London and South East Regional Director at Historic England, said:

“Whether it’s a medieval market town, or a post-war city centre, every high street in England has a distinctive history that can be harnessed to help it achieve a prosperous future.

“Investing in heritage delivers good results for people – it means looking after and celebrating the places at the heart of our communities, and the buildings and public spaces which define their character. This investment for our Historic High Streets Action Zone scheme will unlock the potential of these precious high streets and help them thrive again.”

The views/opinions expressed in these comments are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Island Echo. House rules on commenting must be followed at all times.
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Up grading to paving and highways, well that’s Island Roads looked after. Hope our ” leaders”, will listen to the parish council on this one.

Baa Lamb

Yet to hear of anyone not shopping locally ‘because they dont like the look of the old paving stones.   Now if they used the cash to remove, drunks, druggies, doorway sleepers, rubbish, dog fouling, chavs, or created a continuous line of wind out awnings to protect shoppers from the wet cold rain that Winter will bring upon those queuing or shopping, and abolished car parking charges THAT might help a tiny bit.   Truth is the Hight street is dead and all shopping should now be moved into Union Street, and Ryde high street and Upper high street turned… Read more »


So business’s are forced to close by IOW council as allowing more and more large out of town ,eg Home bargains,foodwarehouse etc with free parking. Who is going to pay high parking charges, higher prices for goods in High Street etc, have they not noticed that we all do more on line shopping now and due to Covid ,ressesion on its way this will in no way benefit local or ordinary island folk. Help high streets by making it affordable for business and easily and free to access for shopping .


Ryde does have free parking, for 1 hour. So does Newport, but less so. The charges are not that high in context of not going every day. With the option to park 5 minutes walk away for free. The big out of towns do have free parking, but you still have to drive there, which does cost, fuel. Often youll get more value out of a high street as its more diverse and you’ve less products overall but more choice. Hursts? high Street, or home bargains, out of town? and coffee / tea after? High Street big choice, Home Bargains… Read more »


I agree i could use the bus but it is£3.50 each for Me and the wife that is£14.00 return so car park is very cheap in comparison.that is Ryde to Newport.


And the free parking five minutes away is at the expense of poor residents who can never park anywhere near their houses because nobody will pay parking charges! I’ve sometimes had to pay to park because someone shopping is parked in my road and there’s nothing we can do as anyone can park there but it so frustrating.


So that’s where the money is coming from to pay for their disgraceful pay rises!

Andy Foss

And coinsidentally there will soon be many more empty shop’s to be turned into town centre residential areas.

Benjamin Dyer

Last time a certain council had money for this sort of thing it was swallowed up with nothing to show for it in the towns where it was meant to be spent.

Peter Parker

“Studies will consider what’s needed to bring empty buildings and space into new use”

Do we really need a study to point out that parking charges are a major factor but they are going up again regardless?


Our High streets will end up like many on the mainland, with dubious single males, hanging around in doorways, on a mobile, many not indigenous and many into dealing.
Wouldn’t be so bad if housing such prevented the Green Field sites from being built over, but, we know with our Council, we will get the worst of both worlds now.
Our beautiful countryside ruined for ever and the same with our High Streets.
Watch, and learn, albeit when it is too late.

Old Mike

“Studies will consider etc” That sounds to me like another way of saying ‘Consultants’!

Ryde Reader

Expensive consultants!!


Sounds promising but unfortunately I seriously doubt we will see any change to these rundown high streets.


Oh but cant get covid test for love nor money!
Throwing yet more money at old rope.
Fabulous.bodge roads that dont need it ,cut services but make our money available for councillors pay rises.
Again…..faboulous well thought out udeas from useless dingbats

Joe Bloggs

Perhaps the council will add to this fund by cancelling the pay rise to councilors and making car parking free.


What’s the point? wasting money, the High Streets are dead final nail in the coffin was banning disabled drivers from parking. Get with it, the internet is the new modern shopping place far better than the old decaying High Street.


High streets are now competing online shopping. As all have said, make parking free, and make more of it.

Also require large businesses/chain’s to allow for 3 hour parking, even if not shopping with them.

Make a business case for independent shops by making the rent significantly cheaper, and raise rates for big chains to help pay.


Interesting to see that £1m to upgrade two high streets, but only 500k to help vulnerable and homeless Islandwide. Bricks before people again.


Why are so many clamouring to “save” the High Street.
Times are changing we shop online, we work from home. The council fleece is to park in the High Street. Stop throwing money at a lost cause.
Embrace changes,
Don’t tell me it penalises the older folk, I’ve been a pensioner for years. I don’t see a problem.

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