The UK’s high streets have changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Online shopping and competition from retail parks have led to the insolvency of many high street chains and the closure of department stores. The role of the high street has been shifting from the sale of goods to increasing social activities (salons, coffee shops and bars).

The impact of Covid-19 is a further unprecedented crisis, demanding new solutions and bringing forth new opportunities. Surplus commercial buildings offer significant opportunities for alternative uses, for example, the creation of co-working spaces, town centre ‘live/work’ accommodation, community hubs, libraries and cafes.

Walworth Road, London

High Streets Heritage Action Zones was launched by Historic England in 2019 and is a scheme supported by the Future High Streets Fund. This aims to breathe new life into old areas that are rich in heritage by unlocking their potential and making them more appealing to residents, businesses, tourists and investors.

The scheme targets buildings that are vacant or ‘at risk’, helping to introduce new uses and improving the wider public realm in historic town centres.

New cultural programmes are blossoming around the scheme encouraging local engagement with architectural heritage, whilst enabling people to better appreciate and value the significance of their surroundings.

Purcell are working with local authorities in Heritage Action Zones across the country to achieve their objectives for town-centre regeneration. Currently, we are working on projects in areas such as Rochdale, Lowestoft, Croydon, Swindon and Southwark.

Across the country, our team are engaged in creating surveys of empty high street properties and shopfront restoration schemes, funded through the Future High Streets programme. Our integrated service of design, building surveying, masterplanning and heritage consultancy is well-suited to the challenge of reviving historic high streets; our assessment of where investment has the greatest impact has been praised as exemplary by Historic England.

Associate and Senior Heritage Consultant, Will Holborow

We are contributing by enabling new uses for vacant buildings, designing improved shopfronts, analysing local character and developing solutions to problems of disrepair. We are also delighted to be working with Historic England to review the statutory listing of hundreds of listed buildings in towns across the South West, North East and Yorkshire.

Associate and Senior Heritage Consultant, Will Holborow
Tamworth Town Centre

Our team are also currently developing a masterplan with Tamworth town centre as part of the Future High Street Fund. From 1960 through to the 1980s significant areas of the historic town centre were removed and the old buildings demolished and with that, the community within Tamworth lost its connection with its architectural heritage.

Our masterplan aims to improve the vision and physical connectivity between the key historic buildings in the town centre so that as people walk around, they develop a better connection with where they are.

Partner and Head of Design, Alasdair Travers