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Heritage Action Zone - guidance on grant funding

Guidance on grants for building works

Historic England and Great Yarmouth Borough Council are offering grants to building owners or repairing leaseholders to carry out works to buildings, including repair, reinstating lost features, supporting conversion of historic buildings for new uses and improving shared spaces.

The aim of the scheme is to revitalise historic high streets by investing in repair and restoration of vacant or under-utilised heritage assets and public realm assets.

All works must be directly related to conservation or improvements that will protect the heritage value of the building and wider Heritage Action Zone area. Eligible works include:

  • reinstatement of traditional shopfronts
  • conversion of vacant floorspace for retail or residential use
  • repair and reinstatement of architectural details and features to the façade of buildings
  • temporary building works, works to roofs and roof structures, leadworks, gutter repairs and rainwater disposal, repairs to external walls, windows and doors
  • repair or replacement of external features, damp management, and structural work to help achieve these improvements

The High Streets HAZ partnerships will make grants available to owners (or repairing leaseholders) of individual properties who want to carry out repairs or other appropriate work which will enhance the area. This funding comes from Historic England, the local authority and other sources. Grant applicants will be responsible for procuring the works to their building.

Any grant is made in the expectation that repairs, changes and improvements made to the High Street as part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme will be maintained adequately after the completion of the scheme. Any disposal of the building without permission within three years of the final instalment will require repayment of the grant.

For grants of over £20,000, we require that owners use a conservation-accredited professional. For grants less than £20,000 this is encouraged but not a requirement.

To be eligible for grant funding applicants need to be the person (or authorised representative of the organisation) that has legal responsibility for the repair of the building - otherwise they don't have authority to accept the funding for the works. This could be the owner, or it could be someone who has a repairing lease that covers the period until at least March 2024. A tenant without a repairing lease would not be able to receive grant funding, although the owner and a tenant could apply jointly if the tenant doesn't have legal responsibility, in which case the tenant could be the contact with the Leading Partner and could receive the funding. Whoever receives the funding from the Leading Partner would be responsible for paying the contractor. This should be noted on the application form.

Work that we can fund

This includes:

  • building repairs
  • major repairs to the structure and external fabric of buildings contributing to the historic character of the area, such as re-roofing, window repairs, pointing or structural stabilisation
  • reinstating architectural features (including shop fronts)
  • repair and/or authentic reinstatement of distinctive features that have been lost from historic buildings and their settings, where this will benefit the appearance of the high street
  • work to bring vacant buildings or portions of buildings back into use
  • works designed to increase the area of productive floorspace on the high street, for commercial, residential or other purposes
  • conversion of buildings into alternative uses that better meet the demand of the area
  • adaptation of buildings to reflect the changing nature and role of high streets, in ways that better reflect local need (e.g. reduced retail space, increased residential use)

Work that cannot be funded

The High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme cannot normally fund the following:

  • demolitions
  • modernisation works unless integral to the conservative repair of a building
  • building services (except in exceptional circumstances where renewal is integral to conservative repair or where failure to renew or replace building services systems puts the historic fabric at risk)
  • for conversions we can fund integrated services such as plumbing or wiring, but not stand-alone works (see Appendix 1: Further guidance on types of work that can and cannot be funded)
  • conjectural reinstatement
  • free-standing maintenance and minor repairs
  • capital work started without prior consent and before a written offer of grant has been made and accepted by the individual building owner

Appendix 1: Further guidance on types of work that can and cannot be funded

A1.1 We expect that any work funded through the High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme will be carried out using traditional methods and, where possible, materials appropriate to the history and condition of the building or area. When replacement is necessary, it should normally be done on a like-for-like basis. For instance materials such as UPVC for guttering and windows are not eligible: we require more traditional forms.

A1.2 We place considerable value on retaining historic fabric and believe that a number of small repairs to elements of the historic building fabric are often more appropriate than complete renewal. An example of this would be piecing-in new elements in a historic window frame. In general, grants will go towards conservative repairs, i.e. repairs that are as limited as possible in scope yet achieve their conservation objectives. In some cases we will require grant recipients to carry out appropriate recording during the work and on completion of the work. This is to capture evidence that would otherwise be lost in the process of repair and to record the nature and extent of what has been done for future reference.

A1.3 Detailed guidelines on projects and costs that can be funded in most cases can be found below. We realise that every historic building or area is different. If special circumstances apply, you should contact your local High Streets HAZ Project Officer to discuss the proposal.

A1.4 Owners may want to carry out improvement works at the same time as repairs to historic fabric. Eligible and non-eligible work can be undertaken in the same project, but the costs must be identified separately and made explicit in agreed schedules of works and tender documents.

Details of work eligible for grant funding under the programme

A1.4.1 Temporary building works

If there is an unavoidable delay before full repairs are carried out, temporary measures, including work to protect a structure from collapse, damage or deterioration, such as propping and shoring, temporary weatherproofing, or putting up protective structures could secure the building while its structure is being surveyed or a repair specification is being drawn up.

Written approval from Historic England is required before a grant offer for temporary works over £5,000 can be made.

A1.4.2 Roofs

Repairing roof structures, together with renewing or substantially repairing roof coverings; repairing roof features such as:

  • parapet and valley gutters
  • dormer windows and skylights
  • chimney stacks and pots
  • cupolas and balustrading

A1.4.3 Leadwork

Renewing roof leadwork, if it is no longer serviceable, or using lead welding in order to extend the life of lead that is of historic interest. It may be necessary to redesign the substrate (the structure just below the lead) to keep to current good practice. The visual and physical implications need to be considered carefully before any changes are made.

To avoid the risk of underside lead corrosion, lead roofing should be carried out between April and September and under a temporary roof.

A1.4.4 Permanent access to carry out maintenance

If difficult access has prevented proper maintenance in the past, installing hatches, handrails or cables, fixed ladders or crawl boards to improve access for maintenance and inspection may qualify for a grant as part of a wider project.

A1.4.5 Rainwater disposal

The extensive repair or replacement of rainwater disposal systems, both above and below ground. Lead and cast iron should be replaced on a like-for-like basis, although in certain cases where theft, vandalism or maintenance access is exceptionally problematic, there may be a case for using appropriate substitute materials.

Digging trenches for drains and soakaways in demonstrably archaeologically sensitive areas will often require supervision by suitably qualified archaeologists, and a grant can be offered towards such costs.

Installing proprietary electric heating tapes in gutters and rainwater heads where access is difficult and weather conditions are particularly severe, or where especially valuable building fabric or contents may be at risk from the guttering and rainwater disposal systems failing.

Providing overflows and weirs to rainwater disposal systems so that, in case of blockage, water is shed away from the building.

A1.4.6 Walls

Necessary repairs to external walls, including work to structure, surfaces, decorative elements on the wall surface, and wallcoverings or claddings.

A1.4.7 Windows and doors

Repairing or replacing elements set in walls, such as panels, windows and doors, including frames, glazing, ironmongery and other fittings.

A1.4.8 External features

Repairing or replacing, where necessary, existing external features, such as balconies, canopies, bargeboards and shutters, where these contribute to the special architectural or historic interest of the building.

Removal of non-historical features the absence of which will enhance the overall character and appearance of the building.

A.1.4.9 Damp

Measures to manage rising or penetrating damp, if this is directly damaging the fabric or contents of a historic building, including providing surface water drainage, lowering external ground levels (where this would not be archaeologically or structurally damaging), and improved ventilation, if this is essential. Old buildings need to breathe and keeping vapour-permeable traditional plaster is preferable to replastering in relatively impermeable cement-based plasters.

Providing a damp-proof course simply because the existing structure was built without one does not qualify for a grant. Experience has shown that providing damp-proof courses and membranes in historic structures can transfer damp problems to other areas of the building.

A1.4.10 Decoration

Decoration does not qualify for a grant unless it is necessary to make good after decorations have been disturbed as part of other work that has been funded by the scheme or where new work (such as joinery) requires a painted finish.

A1.4.11 Cleaning

Grants will not be offered for cleaning for purely cosmetic reasons. Cleaning qualifies for a grant only if there is so much dirt on a structure that it must be removed to assess the need for and scope of repairs, if chemicals in the surface build-up are damaging the fabric, or if a surface covering (such as paint) needs to be removed from masonry for technical reasons.

Cleaning brickwork or stonework for these reasons is rarely necessary. Unless appropriate methods are chosen and the work is carried out with extreme care, by specialist conservation contractors under adequate supervision, it can cause long-term damage. It may also detract from, rather than add to, the appearance of a building. Cleaning should always be followed by any necessary conservation of the cleaned surfaces.

A.1.4.12 Pigeon deterrents

Non-electric physical barriers to prevent a build-up of damaging pigeon droppings, where these can be provided in a visually acceptable way and without using chemicals.

A.1.4.13 Reinstating architectural features

The reinstatement of architectural features must be carried out only if the building is otherwise in good repair (or will be repaired as part of the programme). The objective is to reinstate (in whole or part) elements of the exterior fabric of buildings that are essential to their design and character and that contribute to the character of the building and the high street, provided the reinstatement is to the original size, pattern, detail and material. This can include decorative ironwork, such as:

  • balconies, canopies and railings
  • ornamental masonry, including architectural sculpture, stucco and other applied finishes
  • details and joinery to historic patterns

The reinstatement of shop fronts to the original design (based on evidence), or (by exception) to a design appropriate to the period and location and supported by evidence, can be considered for a grant.

Generally, eligible work relating to special architectural features will form part of a more comprehensive repair proposal or be included in a specific 'architectural features' scheme.

A1.4.14 Conversions of buildings

Historic England's agreement is required before conversion works can be funded through this programme.

We can support conversion of buildings from economically unviable to viable uses where local demand can be shown. It is important that any use is viable not only for the owner but also for the future conservation of the building to reduce the risk of unnecessary harmful changes being made to a building.

Harmful alteration may sometimes be justified in the interests of realising the optimum viable use of a building provided harm is minimised. If, from a conservation point of view, there is no real difference between alternative economically viable uses, then the choice of use is a decision for the owner, subject to obtaining any necessary consents (see the GOV.UK: When is permission required? guidance).

Other grant-eligible costs

A1.5 Grants offered under the Heritage Action Zone programme will normally represent a fixed financial contribution towards the overall costs of the project, including related costs such as professional fees and VAT. Where eligible and ineligible works are combined in a single project, a grant will be offered towards the cost of eligible work only. In such cases, the contribution towards the related costs listed below will normally be calculated in proportion to the works that qualify for a grant.

A1.5.1 Professional fees

Where a grant is offered for works to a building or to the public realm costing £20,000 or more in total, the grant recipient must employ the services of a competent professional with relevant specialist conservation knowledge and experience. Where the grant is for any works to a Grade I or II* listed building, or for repair works to a Grade II listed building or an unlisted building, this professional must be an architect, chartered building surveyor or chartered architectural technologist with conservation accreditation - see the Historic England: Conservation Accreditation for Professionals page.

For grants of less than £20,000 we encourage the employment of a conservation accredited professional, but it is not a requirement.

The professional adviser may be the person appointed by the local authority or appointed independently by the grant recipient. The service may include, where applicable:

  • preparing a thorough survey of the structure(s) or site and its condition, including survey drawings and plans
  • research, analysis and archaeological investigation of the fabric likely to be affected
  • preparing a detailed specification and drawings for the necessary repairs, or recording of the fabric
  • providing a list of competent contractors able to carry out the work to a high standard
  • getting competitive tenders and providing a tender report
  • arranging a contract for the works
  • regular inspections and valuations of the work on site until it is completed
  • full contact with the local authority on the technical details of both the application and the work for which a grant has been awarded

Applicants for grants should make sure that, when they appoint their professional adviser, they include all the requirements set out above.

We consider the competitive tendering of professional fees to be best practice. You will need to satisfy yourself that grant-aided projects follow the Public Procurement Regulations

The fee scale in the RIBA's A Client's Guide to Engaging an Architect or other similar recognised fee scales can be used as a guide to the maximum allowances for fees for any work that qualifies for a grant. This fee allowance will form part of the total project costs that you can consider for a grant.

A1.5.2 Value Added Tax (VAT)

VAT on work associated with historic buildings, monuments and other conservation repairs is not straightforward. The basic divide is that new-build residential projects - and charitable ones, as long as they do not generate any income - do not attract VAT, whereas refurbishment and repair works do.

In general, grants will be offered on the expectation that all work is liable to VAT (unless an applicant states in their application form that they are able to reclaim some or all of the VAT which they will be charged, or that the work will be zero-rated). Grants should only be paid towards the VAT which an applicant is unable to recover. If an applicant is subsequently able to recover the VAT towards which a grant has been paid, they will be asked to repay the relevant amount of grant.

A1.5.3 Preliminary costs and insurance

The formal contract between the applicant and their contractor will set out preliminary costs, such as scaffolding, hoardings, contractors' facilities and access for vehicles. The grant offered may take into account these costs. The contract will set out the responsibilities of the employer and the contractor for insurance. If an applicant needs to take out other insurance than that which forms part of the contract cost, you can include the cost of this other insurance when working out the project costs that qualify for a grant.

Details of work which cannot receive funding

A1.6 High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme grants cannot be offered towards the following types of work:


The removal of any part of the building does not normally qualify for a grant, though exceptionally a grant may be offered for:

  • careful dismantling of a structure that threatens to damage surrounding historic fabric
  • careful dismantling prior to reinstatement
  • the removal of later additions of little merit which alter or obscure the original design of the building and where careful dismantling is carried out as part of an agreed scheme of reinstatement

Building services

The free-standing renewal of building services, e.g. new heating systems or rewiring (unless integral to conservative repair or where failure to renew or replace building services systems puts the historic fabric at risk). Note, however, that the entire rainwater disposal system is eligible.

Substitute materials

The use of substitute materials where the original is obtainable, except in situations where the original materials have failed and will continue to fail regularly if they are replaced like-for-like. In the case of lead and copper where there has been a history of theft or there is a high risk of theft we can assess substitute materials on a case-by-case basis.

Conjectural reinstatement

There is a strong presumption against wholly speculative reconstruction or reinstatement of features that have totally disappeared leaving neither confidently interpretable traces nor record photographs or drawings. Exceptionally, cases may arise where the reinstatement of, for instance, a shop front is highly desirable, but where evidence does not exist. In such cases grant-aid may be given towards a convincing, well-informed design that is appropriate to its context.

Maintenance and minor repairs

This is work that we would expect to be carried out on a regular basis to prevent the building from deteriorating, such as the cleaning out of rainwater goods, checking of flashings and roof coverings for slipped slates or tiles, removal of plants, redecoration including cleaning of metalwork and regular repainting of joinery.

Snowboards in gutters tend to decay and cause further problems, and these cannot be funded.

Appendix 2: Technical information sources

A2.1 Technical conservation guidance on all aspects of the repair and maintenance of the historic built environment is available on the Historic England (opens new window) website, on topics such as:

  • traditional windows
  • repointing brick and stone walls
  • energy efficiency and historic buildings
  • vacant historic buildings
  • inspecting and maintaining fibrous plaster ceilings
  • finding suitable replacement stone for building repairs
  • finding wall paintings
  • preparing for and recovering from flooding
  • planning for emergencies like fire
  • conserving war memorials
  • looking after parks and gardens
  • managing wildlife and habitats
  • insuring historic buildings
  • carrying out hot works (work involving naked flames) in historic buildings

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