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60-62 High Street Harlesdon
60-62 High Street Harlesdon

Five Transformational Project Grants Awarded to get High Streets and Town Centres in England Thriving

17 July 2020

The AHF (the Architectural Heritage Fund) is delighted to announce today the second round of Transformational Project Grants to charities and social enterprises with fresh, imaginative ideas for revitalising their local high streets and town centres in England.

The grants, which will support the capital costs of conserving and adapting historic buildings, have been awarded under the AHF's Transforming Places Through Heritage programme. Transforming Places contributes to the regeneration and renewal of high streets and town centres in England by supporting charities and social enterprises to create exciting, sustainable new community uses for redundant or underused historic buildings. The programme is funded by a £15 million grant from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Since starting the programme in 2019, the AHF has given £4.89 million in grants to 76 projects in England. The programme exists within a wider set of interventions aiming to revive high streets in England. The other programmes are the High Street Heritage Action Zones, being led by Historic England, and the Future High Streets Fund, administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and involving a number of local authorities. Many of the organisations and projects awarded grants by the AHF will be helping deliver key projects within some of these areas.

Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston said:

"This funding will help improve high streets in a number of places across the country, preserving heritage sites and historic buildings. We want to level up communities and help breathe new life into town centres to create jobs and economic growth."  

As high streets and town centres across England reopen after lockdown, the AHF is aware that Covid-19 has now compounded the huge challenges facing England's high streets and town centres. Already in sharp decline due to online shopping and high costs, the pandemic lockdown has driven down footfall, and is likely to continue to do so for some time.

The AHF, along with other sector partners, has recognised for some time that the role of the high street needs to be rethought if it is to survive, and that there needs to be a better use of spaces to help create a sense of place, identity and civic pride that deepens connections between local communities and their high streets and town centres.

What drives the AHF's transformation programme is that redundant heritage buildings can become high street assets by encouraging community ownership of these assets and investing in charities and social enterprises diversifying their uses so that they serve the local community. 

The AHF is now inviting applications for the next round of Transformational Project Grants. The deadline for applications is 30th September 2020. Details on how to apply and eligibility are available at

Matthew Mckeague, CEO, Architectural Heritage Fund, said:

“This new round of Transforming Places grants is both timely and absolutely essential, supporting many recent recommendations, including those in the recently published Grimsey Review: Covid-19 Supplement for Town Centres. The AHF grants empower and finance those charities and social enterprises that are stepping up to facilitate change in their high streets and town centres by redesigning and diversifying the use of historic buildings, encouraging a brighter future for the towns of which they form a part."

An important aim of the Transforming Places Through Heritage programme is to encourage a more diverse range of charities and social enterprises to see the particular value of reusing historic buildings and in helping to diversify the range of uses within town centres. By supporting these projects now, the AHF hopes to encourage other organisations to consider the adaptation and reuse of historic buildings and to locate these projects in prominent and central locations. This will help to realise a number of other positive benefits, including helping these buildings continue to contribute towards local character and community identity, reducing environmental impacts by adapting an existing structure, and in encouraging higher quality design standards.

The awards for Transformational Project Grants have been made to:

18-20 Market Street, Bacup

Transformational Project Grant of £311,271

Valley Heritage CIO are converting a prominent heritage building, the former Yorkshire & Lancashire Bank building (built in1878) on Bacup's high street. The town is referred to as 'the best preserved mill town in England' but suffers from significant economic and social problems. The repurposing of the building has the potential to make an enormous difference by helping promote Bacup as a place to live and work and acting as a catalyst for further high street regeneration. The building will be converted into mixed commercial and residential use with co-working desk space on the ground floor for rent for local micro-businesses and on the upper floors affordable housing for two flats and supported accommodation for local young people at risk of homelessness.

 Stephen Anderson, Chair of Valley Heritage, said:

 "We are delighted to receive the grant. Valley Heritage and our partners have worked incredibly hard to get to this point in a short space of time. The project seems only more relevant in the current climate, with communities becoming more connected to their town centres and wanting a wider range of local facilities to meet their needs. The project will provide homes and shared workspace at the heart of the town centre, supporting initiatives such as High Street Heritage Action Zone and, fingers crossed, Bacup’s bid for the Future High Streets Fund. We have more work left to do, not least raising the final funding. The confidence AHF have shown in the project will certainly help with this."

Hat Works

Transformational Project Grant of £280,000

The Culture Trust is leading the emergence of a creative cluster in Luton by transforming buildings in the town's Hat District into vibrant creative industry workspaces for Luton's young talented creatives who might otherwise move to or travel to work in London or elsewhere, and establishing exciting music and arts venues that would benefit the local community by creating jobs and bringing visitors to the town.

Hat Works (47 Guildford Street, Luton) is the oldest remaining hat factory in Luton and a key structure in the town's industrial heritage, though the last hat business closed in 2006 and the building has remained empty since. The project will enable a new creative function for the building, primarily through providing flexible co-working space for creative individuals and micro businesses. The vision is of a shared space for people to grow their businesses in a supported and mentored environment. This will operate on a low-cost membership model, targeting start-

ups, young and diverse people and graduates. The building will also serve as the welcoming entrance to the Hat District and complement the development of the Hat Factory Arts Centre (opened Sept 2019) and Hat House (completed in Nov 2019 and currently welcoming new tenants). The building sits in a pivotal area between Luton railway and bus station to the north, and The Mall Shopping Centre to the south, which provides Luton’s main retail provision. At least 8,000 visitors pass by the Hat Works each day. 

Marie Kirbyshaw, CEO, The Culture Trust, said:

"We are delighted to receive vital funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund to help us repair and reuse the oldest hat factory in Luton in order to develop a new creative industry start-up space to grow skills and micro-businesses". 

60-62 High Street, Harlesden

Transformational Project Grant of £105,574

The late Victorian four-storey former bank building (built c.1891) is one of the biggest and most prominent buildings in the high street. Although not listed, it is valued by the local community and identified as a heritage asset in the Harlesden Neighbourhood Plan and the building features within Harlesden’s bid to become a High Street HAZ area.

Refugee Support Network has purchased the building with two key aims: to provide a permanent home and national headquarters for the charity, strengthening and extending the support it provides to refugee and asylum-seeking children needing to engage with the UK education system; and to create a social impact hub for Harlesden, providing a community base for partner organisations and flexible space for other local charities and social enterprises. The restored building will provide community group and social/events space in the basement and ground floor; and 18 desks for RSN staff, 18 co-working/rentable desks, as well as four meeting rooms on the first, second and third (attic) floors.

 AHF funding will enable internal works to be carried out to bring the building back into use, including partial removal of the bank vaults, attic conversion, new heating, ventilation, lighting and insulation, a new lift, floor levelling, installation of a new mezzanine floor and stairs, and new kitchen and bathroom facilities.

 Historically, Harlesden has experienced a long period of decline and high levels of homelessness and overcrowding. More recently, the London Borough of Brent, in which Harlesden is located, has been one of the worst hit areas in the country for Covid-19 cases and deaths. Restoration of the building will contribute significantly to the high street and conservation area, and act as a catalyst for new projects using other vacant premises.

 Catherine Gladwell, CEO, Refugee Support Network, said:

 "We are so delighted to be awarded a grant from the AHF. The young refugees we work with tell us that education is the key to unlocking their futures - and this grant along with funding from Brent Council and others will help us to create an education centre for young refugees right in the centre of Harlesden. The building will also function as a social impact hub, providing group work and activity space for other local initiatives, and co-working space for charities and social enterprises. Refugee Support Network started out as a small, volunteer-led local project almost ten years ago - and, as we've grown to become a national charity, we're proud to remain rooted in the Harlesden community we love."

Dawn Butler, MP, said:

"It is fantastic news that the Architectural Heritage Fund have approved a £100,000 grant in support of Refugee Support Network (RSN). RSN is a fantastic charity based in my constituency helping refugee and asylum seeking children and young people build their future through education. It has been my pleasure to support and work with them to open up a social impact hub in the heart of Harlesden. These funds bring us one big step closer to that goal."

Peterson's Smokehouse and Building 89

Transformational Project Grant of £300,000

The Great Grimsby Ice Factory Trust (GGIFT) is working together with Associated British Ports, Historic England and North East Lincolnshire Council to restore and bring back into use Peterson's and Building 89. Both are late 19th-century buildings located within the Kasbah Conservation Area. Peterson’s is Grade II listed and was extensively rebuilt in 1951 as a fish processing and smoking factory. Its architectural features allude to its past, including a distinctive narrow tower and ten smoking chimneys, and it forms part of the largest concentration of fish smokehouses in the country, six of which are listed. Building 89 is located directly opposite Peterson’s, and is a three-storey building with an attractive double bay, likely to have operated as a shop. The buildings’ setting is significant, as the Kasbah is noted for being the first modern industrial port in Britain and, importantly, a surviving representation of industrial-scale fishing trade in England, and for having a distinct town-like feel. GGIFT intends to restore Peterson’s as a traditional smokehouse supporting the town's specialist skill and international status for manufacturing Traditional Grimsby Smoked Fish. GGIFT has received expressions of interest from a number of potential future smokehouse operators.

 With Building 89, GGIFT's purpose is to develop a mixed-use space for multiple tenants, including offices, café, and meeting area. The café will complement the much wider vision of the partnership to transform and repopulate the Kasbah into a mixed-used enterprise and business zone reconnecting the port area with the commercial area of the town. The GGIFT is pleased to also announce grant funding of £647,400 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Vicky Hartung, Chair, Great Grimsby Ice Factory Trust, said:

 “We are absolutely delighted to have the go-ahead for Peterson’s.  This is very much a partnership project, which emerged from some creative discussions between ABP, NELC and GGIFT almost three years ago, and we are glad we will have the support of ABP's property

department and Stella Jackson, the HAZ officer, during the delivery.  Rents from the buildings will provide a solid financial basis for the trust, so we can continue to be of use in realising the vision for the Kasbah that we now all share.” 

2/3 High Street, High Wycombe

Transformational Project Grant of £350,000

A key project for the Buckinghamshire Historic Buildings Trust (BHBT),the Grade II high street building dates from 1399 and is the earliest surviving building in High Wycombe other than the church. Unfortunately, the upper office areas had been steadily deserted leaving only part of the ground floor operating as a struggling retail unit. BHBT will restore the building for mixed-use as a commercial bar on the ground floor and a separately accessible venue/activity space on the first and second floors for hire by community groups. The planned flexible adaptation of the building’s upper floors, with platform lift access and WC facilities for disabled people, creates good scope to host meetings, events and classes. The project is located at the centre of High Wycombe’s bid to become a Future High Streets Fund zone. 2/3 High Street is identified within these plans and the project forms a key part of the Council's efforts to draw footfall to the high street in the older part of the town by animating a ‘heritage cluster’ of buildings, and in particular to meet the need to improve the night time offer in the centre of High Wycombe, catering to a young commuter demographic and student population.  

James Moir, Chair of BHBT, said:

"This award is the culmination of three years’ hard graft to acquire this gem of a building, establish its significance and secure an anchor tenant sympathetic to the Trust’s wider vision. All this has only been possible as a result of the AHF’s support at the viability and development stages as well as critical hand-holding by the Council. The Trust is excited to be creating a focal community space which will delight in using its heritage as a means of encouraging everyone to linger in and cherish the town’s undervalued historic quarter."

The AHF has also awarded in this round of funding:£370,577 in Project Development Grants to an additional 8 projects*.


For further information please contact: / 020 7925 0199

For media enquiries contact: 020 8617 0210/07900 891287 / 020 7925 0199

Photo Credits

60-62 High Street, Harlesdon - Refugee Support Network

Notes to Editors:

Information on Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zones is here

Information on MHCLG’s Future High Street Fund areas are here

Full list of awards:

Project Development Grants

Colchester & North East Essex BPT - Balkerne Water Tower, Balkerne Gardens, Colchester, Essex - £20,000

Berwick Youth Project - 5 Palace Street East, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland - £54,747

East Kent Mencap - Foresters Hall, Meeting Street, Ramsgate, Kent - £24,984

King Edward VI College Site Foundation - The Mansion, 36 Fore Street, Totnes, Devon - £60,000

Loughborough Generator CIC - 12 Frederick Street, Loughborough, Leicestershire - £71,295

Grimsby Youth Zone - West Haven Maltings, Garth Lane, Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire - £50,000

Lowestoft Town Council - Lowestoft Town Hall, High Street, Lowestoft, Suffolk - £35,775

Crewe Town Council - Christ Church, Prince Albert Street, Crewe, Cheshire - £53,776

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund 

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.   

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund 


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