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.
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.
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.”