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Carl Smith, David Glason and Matthew Mckeague outside the recently reopened Skippings Gallery, with housing uses above, all of which are now owned and operated by Great Yarmouth PT
Carl Smith, David Glason and Matthew Mckeague outside the recently reopened Skippings Gallery, with housing uses above, all of which are now owned and operated by Great Yarmouth PT

New £15m fund for social enterprises and charities to transform high streets using historic buildings

1 July 2019

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 England 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


For further information please contact: / 020 7925 0199

For media enquiries: / 020 7925 0199


Notes to Editors:

●     More info on Great Yarmouth case study, the Architectural Heritage Fund, Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust and Historic England can be found below

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

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


High Resolution Photos from Fund Launch Event in Great Yarmouth

Cllr Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council,

David Glason, Director of Development, Great Yarmouth Borough Council

Bernard Williamson, Chairman of Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust

Darren Barker, Project Director, Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust

Lyn Bales, Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust

Matthew Mckeague, CEO, AHF

Detailed Great Yarmouth Case Study

King Street is one of the principal historic and trading streets in Great Yarmouth, located within the King Street Conservation Area and within the mediaeval town walls, it contains a high proportion of listed and historic buildings. The street forms part of one of the most deprived wards in the eastern region, with a range of social and economic issues. By 2010 70% of shops in southern King Street were closed and boarded up this extended to upper floors where there were significant issues of vacancy and neglect.

Since 2014 Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust has acquired and repaired listed buildings which were in a state of severe deterioration, created viable and sustainable new uses including an art gallery, artist studios, quality residential housing and offices. The trust has provided training and engagement opportunities for the community and established a social enterprise company employing people it has trained during the restoration works.

Although many buildings in King Street are still in need of repair the creation of quality residential units has helped to form a community who in turn have opened empty shops as cafes, hairdressers and convenience stores which serve the community. Furthermore, supporting residential housing in King Street has helped to shape a vibrant and lively area, this small-scale mixed-use micro economy could provide a blue print for other high streets.

About the Architectural Heritage Fund

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK. The AHF does this by providing advice, information and financial assistance in the form of project grants and social investment for projects undertaken by charities and not-for-profit organisations.

About Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust

Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust is a non-profit registered charity working to preserve, save, enhance and promote the historic built environment. The Trust has been delivering projects since its foundation in 1979 both directly and in partnership with Great Yarmouth Borough Council. The Trust has a portfolio of historic properties which it manages including the Tower Curing Works in Blackfriars Road, leased to Norfolk County Council and housing the celebrated Time and Tide Museum.

About Historic England
We are Historic England, the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are where we’ve come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all. For over 20 years we have managed the Heritage at Risk Register, our tool for shining a light on the listed buildings and places in England that need most help.

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