Ramsgate is one of 69 towns across the country which will get a share of a government funded £95 million heritage boost for high streets.
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan has announced today (September 14) the locations that will benefit from the High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme.
Increasing competition from online outlets is putting high streets across the country under growing pressure. The funding is part of the Government’s drive to help high streets adapt to changing consumer habits by breathing new life into historic buildings and areas.
The initiative will be funded by combining £40 million from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport’s Heritage High Street Fund with £52 million from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Future High Street Fund. Some £3 million will be provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a cultural programme to engage people in the life and history of their high streets.
The investment builds on the successful Heritage Action Zones programme, run by Historic England, and will turn empty and underused buildings into creative spaces, offices, retail outlets and housing to support wider regeneration in the successful areas by attracting future commercial investment.
The funding amounts for each town will be announced in the New Year but a pot of £14.3 million is earmarked for London and the South East; which has 12 towns with successful bids.
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “Our nation’s heritage is one of our great calling cards to the world, attracting millions of visitors to beautiful historic buildings that sit at the heart of our communities.
“It is right that we ensure these buildings are preserved for future generations but it is important that we make them work for the modern world.
“This £95 million will help breathe new life into high streets all over England, benefiting businesses, supporting our much-loved buildings and helping to make our communities more attractive places to live, work and visit.”
The funding will be used for a variety of projects, including: essential repair works in historic buildings and revealing hidden and forgotten features of buildings by restoring shop-fronts and façades; stimulating commercial investment in high streets by demonstrating how historic sites can be successfully repurposed; developing education projects and bespoke events to help reposition historic buildings as community hubs at the heart of local towns and villages and helping to address the UK wide skills shortage of heritage professionals in expert fields like stonemasonry and conservation by providing local property owners, residents and businesses with the opportunity to train in these areas.
Emily Gee, Historic England Regional Director for London and the South East, said: “We are delighted that the High Street Heritage Action Zones announced today mean that the historic character and local commitment to Chatham and Ramsgate are being harnessed for regeneration.
“Through partnerships like these, heritage can be a great catalyst for positive change and we look forward to working with the people and businesses of Chatham and Ramsgate to deliver these projects together for the future of the place.”
County councillor Karen Constantine added: “The cash is a bonus and is extremely welcome in Ramsgate. I would like to ensure there is no ‘double counting’ for instance, with the money already going into the Ramsgate Heritage Action Zone. We will need to wait examine the detail to be satisfied this is genuinely additional money.
“This is part of a set of frenzied announcements by the Prime Minister, which certainly look like a pre-election give away to gain favour with voters.
“However Ramsgate residents have less disposable income to spend with unemployment being higher than the national average. Unemployment in Thanet is 5.3 % compared with a national average of 2.7 % . An increasing number of people are on Universal Credit, which means less money to spend.
“The real solution to the high street malaise is to ensure local people have money in their purses and wallets so that they can spend more cash locally. Thanet urgently needs more, better paid, secure employment. Without assessing these critical issues this is little more than a sticking plaster in a place of extreme deprivation.“
Successful funding bid London and south east towns