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Success for Hexham High Streets Heritage Action Zone bid

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Northumberland County Council has welcomed the announcement that its application to the national High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme (HSHAZ) for Hexham Town Centre has been approved.

Administered by Historic England, the £95m programme aims to deliver physical improvements, community engagement and cultural activities to regenerate England’s struggling historic high streets and town centres.  

Following today’s announcement, Hexham is now set to establish a new High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) to deliver up to a £2.4m programme of improvements to boost the town centre.  

The expression of interest application to Historic England to establish the zone has been agreed subject to the successful completion of a programme design phase by January 2020.  

The final funding award from Historic England will be announced following this design phase, and the scheme then introduced from April 2020, for four years.

The project has been developed in partnership with Hexham Town Council and Hexham Community Partnership through the ‘Hexham Hub’ town forum.  The new zone is backed by a wide range of community and business stakeholders and there will now be further engagement with the local community and businesses as the project is finalised.

The zone covers Hexham town centre and is a new opportunity to drive heritage-led regeneration and commercial development.  

It will focus on the Priestpopple, Cattle Market and Battle Hill area where there is a concentration of vacant properties, which will be compounded by the forthcoming closure of Beales.  It also includes Fore Street, Market Place, St Mary’s Chare, Meal Market, St Mary’s Wynd, Market Street and Beaumont Street.

The scheme aims to bring a boost to the town centre and help it adapt to changing consumer habits.  The funding can be used to regenerate disused or underused buildings, and if approved the zone will: 

  • Repurpose and bring vacant and ‘at risk’ historic properties back into use, introducing a grant scheme to help businesses with costs; 
  • Deliver streetscape and environment improvement works to make the town centre more attractive as a place to live, work and visit; and
  • Support activities which engage the community and visitors including events that bring the town’s rich history to life.

Cabinet member for economic development at Northumberland County Council, Cllr Richard Wearmouth, said: “We are delighted to hear that the Government is backing our significant proposals to capitalise on Hexham’s rich history and heritage to boost the town centre.  I look forward to working with Historic England and our partners to finalise our programme and introduce the new Hexham High Streets Heritage Action Zone in 2020.”

County council cabinet member for planning, housing and resilience, Cllr John Riddle, added: “This is a fantastic opportunity to show how the historic environment can be central to economic regeneration in our towns. We look forward to developing a project which will promote the unique and very special heritage of Hexham.”

Cllr Cath Homer, county councillor for Hexham East, said: “It’s great news to receive this backing to now finalise our exciting plans for the new High Street Heritage Action Zone for Hexham.  The project will really benefit residents, businesses and visitors alike. This is a great opportunity to work collaboratively to enhance our wonderful town.”

Bob Hull, Mayor of Hexham said: “This major announcement is excellent news and will support the delivery of the Hexham Neighbourhood Plan which calls for heritage-led economic regeneration for the town.  We have been keen to see an application to Historic England since the fund’s announcement last year and we look forward to playing a key part in finalising the scheme with our partners to boost the future prospects for the town centre.”

Peter Rodger, chair of the Hexham Community Partnership, said: “The Community Partnership plays an important role in bringing the community together to make Hexham a good place for residents, businesses and visitors alike to live, work and play. Town centre regeneration is central to this and we will now work closely with the town and county councils to finalise the plans for the introduction of the new zone.”

Speaking on the announced of the 69 towns across the country that will benefit from a £95 million heritage boost the Government’s 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.”

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