HSHAZ programme

The High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) programme is a nationwide initiative to secure lasting improvements to historic high streets

The programme is funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and run nationally by Historic England.

Northumberland County Council and partners - Hexham Town Council and Hexham Community Partnership - developed a successful submission to the national programme to deliver a £2.4m scheme, enhanced by a further £1.1m of council funding, to boost the town centre and enhance the Conservation Area, focusing interventions on the target corridor of Priestpopple, Battle Hill and Cattle Market.

The need for investment was based on: 

  • Reduced footfall and a growing number of vacant units in the town centre, which stood at 20% in 2020
  • Significant decline in the maintenance, fabric and use of many heritage buildings and poor quality public realm - the Conservation Area is now classed as ‘At Risk’ and in need of investment 
  • Hexham’s importance to a wide rural catchment for employment, tourism, shops and services and a need to evolve for future generations 

Hexham’s HSHAZ commenced in October 2020 and runs until March 2024 (3.5 years). 

For specific enquiries about HSHAZ activities email: hexhamhshaz@northumberland.gov.uk

The main objectives are: 

  1. Deliver improvements that lead to the removal of the ‘at risk’ status of the Conservation Area, including building repairs, increasing custodianship and maintenance of Hexham’s heritage assets for future generations 
  2. Revitalise the HSHAZ area by increasing occupancy, reducing voids & bringing floorspace back into use 
  3. Enhance the physical condition, distinctiveness and attraction of the town centre through improved quality of streetscape & public realm 
  4. Support economic recovery post Covid-19 by encouraging footfall, dwell time and spend in the town centre enhancing long-term sustainability & protecting jobs 
  5. Stimulate and accelerate commercial investment to create economic growth in the town centre 
  6. Engage the local community to shape, participate and deliver plans & activities 
  7. Increase knowledge, interest & appreciation of the town’s heritage & culture 
During February to June 2024, the council will be undertaking an evaluation of the impact of the HSHAZ scheme using guidance issued by the national programme lead, Historic England.  This will look at a range of indicators including footfall, vacancy rates, the number of buildings improved and repaired, investment by the private sector, engagement and participation in events and training, and measures introduced to protect and enhance the Conservation Area.  More information will be posted on this website about the range of benefits achieved once all scheme elements have been completed.

Towns that are awarded High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) funding have all designed schemes to meet national guidance from Historic England, which comprise specific inter-linked elements.  Below is an overview of the Hexham HSHAZ main workstreams:

Building Grants Scheme

A property grants scheme, now closed for applications, aimed at improving and repurposing buildings in the HSHAZ target area - Priestpopple, Battle Hill and Cattle Market. The grant process was based on national HSHAZ guidelines and eligibility criteria, with applications invited for properties (not an ‘open call’) that best met the criteria including; vacant units (ground and upper floor), buildings requiring improvement that are in a cluster, listed and in a declining condition, larger properties that need repurposing to generate viable uses and commercial buildings with multiple restoration, repair and reinstatement needs. 

Public Realm Improvements

Focus on the key corridor of Priestpopple, Cattle Market and Battle Hill. The existing design, appearance and poor maintenance of this area detracts from the character of the Conservation Area and improvements are viewed as integral to moving towards the removal of the ‘at risk’ status. Enhancements include replacing concrete kerbs and paving with natural materials, upgrading the road surface, improving footways and safety for pedestrians, replacing street lighting with ‘heritage’ style columns and lanterns, reviewing existing old street furniture and installing new planters and seating.

Community Engagement Programme

To maximise participation, accessibility, diversity, learning, appreciation of culture and heritage, increasing volunteering and building capacity in local organisations. 

Hexham Cultural Programme

Hexham Cultural Network (the HSHAZ Cultural Consortium), was granted £80k to create and commission complementary events and activities embracing diverse elements of arts and culture to attract new audiences to engage with the town centre and heritage in a fun, interactive and innovative way. 

Training and Skills

A cross-cutting project creating training and learning opportunities for businesses/property owners, contractors, technical support staff, local interest groups and the public.  

Policy Development and Management

To support improvements that will enable removal of the ‘at risk’ status of the Conservation Area, utilise planning tool, such as a Conservation Area Management Plan, and expertise available to bring forward high quality developments and conserve the heritage fabric of the HSHAZ area 

Management and Governance

The Hexham HSHAZ scheme has been developed by Northumberland County Council (the Accountable Body) in partnership with Hexham Town Council, Hexham Community Partnership, Hexham Hub (the town regeneration forum), Hexham Cultural Network and is backed by a wide range of community and business stakeholders. The scheme is managed by NCC staff and directed by a Steering Group comprising representatives from delivery partners, Historic England and supported by NCC 

We interviewed five Hexham residents and learned some history aboout the area.

Harry Henricks

Phillip Clark

Liz Bramwell

Lawrence Lee

Rosemary Theobald

Hexham's memories of the Queen.

Aileen Hendricks

Cllr Derek Kennedy

Cllr Trevor Cessford

Elizabeth Van Doorn

Jan and Ben Herdan