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AHF to help social enterprises and charities transform high streets and town centres through new funding

18 May 2019

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announced today a new £62 million fund that will breathe new life into historic high streets and town centres across England. Today's initiative is part of the government's plan for High Streets announced at last year’s Budget, including a £675 million Future High Streets Fund and a £1 billion business rates discount for small high street retailers.

High streets lie at the heart of communities but are under increasing pressure as more people choose to shop online. Building on a number of successful programmes, the funding will be used to regenerate places by turning disused or underused buildings into creative spaces, offices, retail outlets and housing. It is part of the Government’s ongoing work to help high streets adapt to changing consumer habits.

Opening for applications in late June, £15 million of funding will be delivered through The Architectural Heritage Fund’s (the AHF) Transforming Places through Heritage Programme. We will support projects that will contribute to the transformation of high streets and town centres in England into thriving places, strengthening local communities and encouraging local economies to prosper.

We will provide funding and expert help to charities and social enterprises developing projects with the potential to bring new life to high streets by creating alternative uses for redundant or underused historic buildings. Where possible, we will be looking to work alongside the funding also announced for Historic England’s new High Streets Heritage Action Zones and the successful Future High Street Fund areas.

Different types of funding and support will be available, including

·         Seed funding through Project Viability Grants will be available to help test ideas and to get new projects off the ground. 

·         Project Development Grants will support the later stages of capital projects and development costs.

·         Different forms of social investment, including community shares and crowd funding match financing, will also be made available to assist projects and organisations to deliver projects and raise additional funds.

·         For projects with the potential to be exemplars – those which offer the best, most scalable new ideas – a limited number of capital grants will be available.

·         A team of Programme Officers, specialist consultants and capacity building workshops will run alongside the programme.

Liz Peace CBE, Chairman, Architectural Heritage Fund:

“With the right funding and expertise, thriving social enterprises can inject life into our high streets and the heritage assets around them. The Transforming Places through Heritage programme will help accelerate investment into many other places like Coventry and Historic Coventry Trust and begin to reimagine our high streets as once more places of both social and commercial prosperity.”

Matthew Mckeague, CEO, Architectural Heritage Fund:

‘The current narrative around the future of the high street is understandably quite negative - but there is also a positive story that needs more attention. Up and down the country, we are seeing inspiring examples of heritage led regeneration on high streets and in town centres, often delivered by social enterprises and enterprising charities. Projects like Havens in Southend, where Age Concern Southend is creating an older people’s hub in the iconic Grade II department store. With the support and funding we will be providing through the Transforming Places through Heritage programme we hope to change the story around the future of the high street.” 

The Architectural Heritage Fund

·         The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) helps communities across the UK find enterprising new uses for the old buildings they love. It has supported a number of high street and town centre regeneration projects in recent years, including Havens Department Store in Southend, which is being revitalised by Age Concern Southend as a hub for older people.

·         For further information regarding the AHF’s grants visit our webpage at:

·         For press enquiries please contact Oliver Brodrick-Ward, on 020 7925 0199 / or Matthew Mckeague 07429 799335.

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