I have been reviewing Historic England's comments on the Government's commitment to provide a £40 million fund that will be made available to help revive historic high streets.
Through the establishment of Historic England's High Street Heritage Action Zone, a few years ago, Historic England have already worked with partners to stimulate investment in historic high streets. This has lead directly to the success in Derby that won the Great British High Street Awards in 2016.
This of course sounds like a very welcome idea given the ongoing focus on high street revival, and might be of interest to anyone considering improvements to their heritage buildings in town centres. I note, however, there is limited information available on how the funding is to be allocated or how interested parties may lay claim to the resources.
Whilst I understand regional teams are being set up to co-ordinate this, for this initiative to work there needs to be a clear plan for the allocation and award of the money. With a fairly limited pot size there will no doubt need to be matched funding from owners. How will owners of historic buildings be incentivised to invest again in their (potentially) empty buildings if the wider context is one of decline?
In order to gain traction and attract wider interest in investment, these can’t be token efforts to restore shopfronts in struggling high street locations without clear commercial gains for doing so.
Perhaps one for discussion at the BPF event 'All over the shop: how can heritage assets help our high streets adapt' on the 19th June.