Disused historic buildings could become homes under new funding initiative

Disused historic building in towns and cities in England could be transformed into homes as part of a Government plan to revitalise 69 High Streets.

Some £95 million is being made available, the biggest ever single investment by Government in the UK’s built heritage with the aim of helping traditional businesses to adapt to compete with online retail.

While some disused historic buildings will be turned into shops and community centres, the plan is also to transform some into homes.

The initiative will be funded by combining £40 million from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport’s Heritage High Street Fund with £52 million from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Future High Street Fund. £3 million will be provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a cultural programme to engage people in the life and history of their high streets.

The investment builds on the successful Heritage Action Zones programme, run by Historic England, and will turn empty and underused buildings into creative spaces, offices, retail outlets and housing to support wider regeneration in the 69 successful areas by attracting future commercial investment.

‘Our nation’s heritage is one of our great calling cards to the world, attracting millions of visitors to beautiful historic buildings that sit at the heart of our communities. It is right that we ensure these buildings are preserved for future generations but it is important that we make them work for the modern world,’ said Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan.

‘This £95 million will help breathe new life into high streets all over England, benefiting businesses, supporting our much loved buildings and helping to make our communities more attractive places to live, work and visit,’ she added.

The funding will be used for a variety of projects, including essential repair works in historic buildings and revealing hidden and forgotten features of buildings by restoring shop fronts and facades.

The aim is to stimulate commercial investment in High Streets by demonstrating how historic sites can be successfully repurposed and develop education projects and bespoke events to help reposition historic buildings as community hubs at the heart of local towns and villages.

The thinking behind the plan also aims to help address the UK wide skills shortage of heritage professionals in expert fields like stonemasonry and conservation by providing local property owners, residents and businesses with the opportunity to train in these areas.

‘I want to make sure the nation’s High Streets continue to be at the heart of local communities,’ said Communities and Housing Secretary of State Robert Jenrick. ‘This funding will revitalise much loved historic buildings, helping to reverse the decline of our town centres. Ensuring that prosperity and opportunities are available to everyone in this country, not just those in our biggest cities, is a priority,’ he added.

Historic England’s chief executive, Duncan Wilson explained that many High Streets have roots that go back hundreds of years. ‘Their historic buildings and distinctive character tell the story of how our towns and cities have changed over time. They are places where people come together to socialise, shop, run businesses and be part of their local community, but now they face an uncertain future,’ he said.

‘Through physical improvements and cultural activities, we will work with partners to find new ways to regenerate our high streets. It is a challenge, but with our experience and track record, as well as the knowledge and passion of local councils, businesses and community groups our historic high streets can be thriving social hubs once more,’ he added.