Breathe New Life Into an Old Place – Make It a Heritage Action Zone

Heritage England is hoping its can help local communities harness history to encourage sustainable economic development and community life.


On its website ( ) it says: ‘Across England, the ancient and historic parts of our towns and cities are also their social and economic centres. Historic quarters give places their character and individuality – a focus for community pride, a sense of shared history, and a sense of belonging. Research shows that businesses based in older places are more productive than their peers, and well-kept historic places add greatly to cultural life and community resilience.

But there remains untapped potential across the country. Old towns, neighbourhoods and quarters that are rich in industrial, cultural or faith heritage, are often under-valued and under-used. They can become symbols of deprivation and dilapidation rather than regeneration and renewal. Historic England wants to unlock this potential.

Starting in June 2016 we will be seeking historic places that have the potential to become focal points for sustainable economic development and community life. Working with local partners, we will focus our help and resources on these places to bring them to life. We will spread this effort across the country – a Heritage Action Zone can be based in any region.

What makes a Heritage Action Zone

Whether you’re interested in regenerating a wider area such as a place in decline, a whole town, or a conservation area, the Heritage Action Zone approach will harness Historic England’s expertise and resources to help.

To be considered for Heritage Action Zone status an area needs to be of significant historic interest, and able to contribute to the social, economic and environmental needs of a place.

Potential Heritage Action Zones can be:

  • Urban or rural
  • A streetscape, series of buildings or multiple places
  • Include both listed and unlisted sites

What Historic England can offer

These are some of the skills and resources we can provide:

  • Research into historic sites or buildings
  • Help with engaging local communities
  • Grant aid – from Repair Grants to Capacity Building Grants
  • Advice on repairing and finding new uses for a building
  • Advice on planning policy
  • Condition surveys
  • Historic Area Assessments and characterisation reports
  • Help with updating entries on the National Heritage List for England
  • Training in how to assess the significance of historic places
  • Help with identifying places that could be listed
  • Networks and contacts that may bring other key players to the table

Our track record

We have a great deal of experience of working on successful heritage-related regeneration projects, including:

Suitability for Heritage Action Zone status

To apply for Heritage Action Zone status you will need to meet these criteria:

  • Be part of a partnership, which could consist of public, private and third sector organisations
  • At least one local authority must be actively involved in your application
  • Each partner must be committed to delivering sustainable long-term growth in the historic area in question
  • The project should be capable of delivery within three to five years

How to apply

This new initiative will be launched in June 2016, but if you are interested in discussing a potential project, please contact your local Historic England office to discuss your proposal.’

How and when will we decide which projects to take forward?

Selecting potential Heritage Action Zones will be a two stage process.

Stage 1: All applications will be assessed and shortlisted by Historic England’s selection panel.

Stage 2: Shortlisted applicants will then need to develop a full delivery plan jointly with Historic England and any other relevant partners. A start date for the project will also be agreed at this stage.

The first round of projects is expected to begin in April 2017.

If you have any questions about the Heritage Action Zone initiative, please contact us.


Heritage Action Zone