Historic England unveils £6m plan to bring towns and buildings back to life

Storm-damaged Abbleby in Cumbria, Kent seaside and listed buildings in industrial heartlands to benefit from heritage restoration project

A Cumbrian town battered by floods and a once-thriving seaside destination in Kent are among the areas to be “brought back to life” in a £6m restoration project by Historic England.

The government’s heritage organisation has announced plans to spruce up conservation areas and return historic buildings to their former glory in 10 “action zones” across the country.

Listed buildings will be renovated for use as housing or retail space in once-booming industrial heartlands such as Sunderland, Coventry and the South Yorkshire mining village of Elsecar.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “Through heritage action zones we are providing help where it’s needed most. England’s right heritage is one of our greatest capital assets and it’s time to use it to bring about positive change in our communities.

“The historic environment offers people a sense of place, a sense of pride and a sense of belonging – and it helps millions earn a living in this country. Everyone should have a share in its potential.”

In Ramsgate, Kent, Georgian and Victorian buildings beside the country’s only royal harbour will be repaired and reopened to tempt tourists back to the formerly thriving seaside town.

Work will also be undertaken in the Lake District town of Appleby, where a “once-in-1,000-years” storm forced hundreds of families from their homes in December 2015. Storm Desmond left Appleby town square submerged under flood water and debris, leaving the town struggling to cope with a drop in tourism.

Historic England said it plans to repair important listed buildings, such as the Norman Keep at Appleby Castle, and set up open days and country trails to lure visitors back to the town.

In Hull, this year’s UK Capital of Culture, conservationists will target the Old Town, home to 40% of the city’s listed buildings but with parts deemed by Historic England to be at risk of being left behind.

In Coventry, projects include potentially registering the city centre, making it one of only a handful postwar conservation areas in the country. The heritage organisation said grants would be awarded to improve historic buildings and shop fronts in the city’s Lady Herbert’s Garden and the Burges conservation area, with the aim of eventually removing it from the heritage at risk register.

A pot of £6m will be shared out between local authorities over the next three to five years, Historic England said, with more towns and cities to be awarded heritage action zone status within two years.

The heritage agency has urged local authorities not to overlook historic buildings to help solve the nationwide housing crisis, with between 225,000 and 275,000 more homes needed a year to keep pace with population growth and years of undersupply.

Tracey Crouch, the heritage minister, said:Our heritage and historic buildings are beautiful assets that make our towns and cities unique. They tell the story of a town’s past and should be protected and cherished, and this scheme will bring communities together to appreciate their local heritage.”

Sally Balcombe, chief executive of VisitEngland, said: “Historical locations are a strong pull for domestic and international visitors encouraging them to explore more of our cities and regions.

“This welcome investment will bring back to life historic places in towns and villages spreading economic growth through tourism across England.”


Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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