AHF (the Architectural Heritage Fund) today announces the opening of the Transforming Places Through Heritage fund, focused on reinvigorating England’s high streets and town centres as once more thriving hubs of community, through the creative reuse of local historic buildings.

From 1st July, local groups across the country will have the opportunity to apply for financial support for projects that create alternative uses for underused or out of use historic buildings, from public buildings to old cinemas, shops or department stores. 

The initiative is part of the High Street Heritage Action Zones and Future High Streets Fund, run by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Building on successful programmes, the funding is part of a £62 million grant from DCMS that will be used to regenerate places by turning disused or underused buildings into creative spaces, offices, retail outlets and housing.

Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive of AHF, comments:

“Today we are starting to build a future where the unique historic buildings in our towns and cities will once again play a central role.

“With the right support, thriving social enterprises and charitable ventures can inject new life into our great but underused buildings, and begin to reimagine and re-establish our high streets as places of social and commercial prosperity, and common identity.

“Through initiatives like this fund, and the support AHF will provide, there is an opportunity for these streets to be much more than just retail spaces – to regain their role as the heartbeat of energy, inspiration and interaction at the centre of our local lives.”

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said:

“Our Transforming Places through Heritage fund is an innovative approach to help high streets grow as cultural and economic hubs for our communities. I want to encourage organisations across the UK to apply for funding so that we can get more people out to enjoy these spaces.”

The fund was launched in Great Yarmouth, which is an example of what can be achieved by innovative local enterprises, when given the right support. The work of the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust has transformed a street of empty and at risk historic buildings in King Street and surrounding area into a thriving cultural and community hub, including an art gallery, workspaces and affordable housing, while training and employing local people. Their success provides an example for high streets across the country to follow.

Cllr Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said:

“Great Yarmouth has a fabulously rich and unique built heritage, which is a key element of our plans and ongoing work to drive regeneration and investment in both the town centre and seafront. We have a national reputation for delivering well on heritage and conservation, working closely with the preservation trust and funders to breathe new life into historic buildings. This significant new fund offers further opportunities and we’re so pleased that Great Yarmouth has been chosen as the location for the launch.”

Bernard Williamson, chairman of the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust, said:

“King Street provides an exciting example of how supporting an innovative preservation trust can make a real difference to heritage and communities, bringing investment and regeneration, conserving at-risk heritage, creating new facilities and developing local skills.

“This success is thanks to our best practice relationship with the borough council and links with other long-standing supporters including the Architectural Heritage Fund. We will be making an application to this exciting new fund.”

Across the country, there are many other examples of local enterprises bringing historic high street buildings to life – from the development of Liskeard Library in Cornwall to the transformation of the former Havens department store in Southend into a hub for older people, and the creation of Sunderland’s Pop Recs, an independent record shop, cafe and arts venue based in a former Binns store on High Street West.

The Transforming Places Through Heritage fund is aimed at community businesses, social enterprises and charitable ventures, which are uniquely equipped to develop creative new ideas for bringing life back to old buildings, increasing the mix of uses and diversifying ownership.

The fund, which will provide a range of funding for projects at different stages of development – whether just starting out, ready to move forward with their plans, or starting restoration of a building – opens for initial applications on the 1st July.

Grants can range from a few thousand pounds for viability studies, to up to £350k for a limited number of transformational projects. 

More details on how to apply and project eligibility are available at http://ahfund.org.uk/tpth