Could the answer to the crisis on the English High Street lie in our wealth of heritage buildings? Possibly, according to the government. It has announced a plan to restore historic properties on 69 high streets, turning them into housing as well as shops, community centres and businesses.

The failing fortunes of UK town centres has been well-documented with many ideas touted for reviving them – among them the need to shift them away from retail to living and leisure spaces. The new proposals bring together two government departments and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with each pledging millions of pounds.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will contribute £40 million to the fund. 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.”

With many English high streets dating back many hundreds of years, the money will be used for repairs and to restore tired facades of landmark buildings. The plan also aims to help address a UK-wide skills shortage in heritage trades, such as stonemasonry and conservation, by offering opportunity to train in these areas.

“I want to make sure the nation’s high streets continue to be at the heart of local communities,” said Communities and Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, whose department has contributed £52 million to the project.

“Through physical improvements and cultural activities, we will work with partners to find new ways to regenerate our high streets. It is a challenge, but with our experience and track record, as well as the knowledge and passion of local councils, businesses and community groups our historic high streets can be thriving social hubs once more.”

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