High Streets across the North West given the green light for Historic England regeneration schemes to aid their economic recovery
Cultural Programme commissions open for artistic celebration of the high street
£532,575 boost for Blackpool's Church Street Heritage Action Zone
From Blackpool to Bacup, 14 historic high streets across the North West including here in Blackpool, 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.
At the heart of Blackpool's High Street Heritage Action Zone is Church Street, one of the town's oldest commercial streets which links the Winter Gardens, Grand Theatre and the Promenade, some of Blackpool's key historic gems. Over the past 40 years, the decline of UK seaside resorts has led to an economic downturn in Blackpool and high levels of deprivation.
Alongside this, the town centre's status has declined as it has struggled to compete with other retail and leisure destinations. Many of the historic buildings within the area are in a declining condition and there is a high vacancy rate which has led to a general dissatisfaction about what the centre has to offer people.
With £532,575 of Government funding, delivered through Historic England, the High Street Heritage Action Zone project will include a package of physical interventions to the Winter Gardens and other key buildings in the area. These works will be coupled with a community-led cultural programme to bring the high street back to life. This project aims to reinvigorate a sense of belonging in Blackpool's town centre by engaging the local community with key cultural venues.
The £95m government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) programme, which is delivered by Historic England, will unlock the potential of this and other 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, work places and community spaces, restoring local historic character and improving public realm.
The High Streets Heritage Action Zone initiative in England 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.
Historic buildings on our high streets give great character to local towns and cities, making each distinctive and appealing to people. Up to 48% of the nation's retail stock was built before 1919 and the loss of business occupiers in these historic buildings is placing them at risk and undermining the character, local identity and viability of the high street.
On top of this £95 million, the government’s unprecedented £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund will help to tackle the impact the pandemic has had on our most loved arts organisations and heritage sites and breathe new life into historic high streets across the country.
It is not just the economic future and commercial confidence of the High Streets that is at stake. They have a long history of being the heart of places where local people meet, work, shop and feel part of something bigger.
The HSHAZ scheme includes £7.4 million to fund four years of cultural activities across the country to engage communities with their local high streets, and celebrate the role and importance of these historic areas as hubs of the community. The Cultural Programme is led by Historic England, in partnership with The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England.
The money will fund two arms of the programme, the first is grants distributed through cultural consortia set up by Local Authority partners. These consortia will work with artists and creative organisations local to the high streets to develop their ideas and deliver activity.
The second part of the programme is a series of national cultural commissions. Historic England is asking creatives to respond to briefs that include capturing the everyday spirit of high streets, and connecting high streets across the country; this will include a large-scale outdoor arts celebration of the high street and a four year photography commission to document the changing face of the high street. Further commissions will be announced in each year of the cultural programme.
Catherine Dewar, North West Regional Director at Historic England, said:
Our high streets bring people together. They are places to socialise, shop, run businesses and be part of our local community. Every high street across the North West has a distinctive history that can be harnessed to help it achieve a prosperous future.
Investing in heritage improves people’s lives – 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 through our High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme will unlock the potential of these precious 14 high streets and help them thrive again.
Scott Benton, MP for Blackpool South adds:
This is excellent news for Blackpool with support for the Winter Gardens and other key buildings. Along with other projects, this funding will help to bring our town centre back to life making a real difference.