Heritage 2020 Working Groups:

Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management

How the historic environment can be conserved and managed in a way that secures its future.

The Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management group used two cross-cutting themes (the future of historic high streets and town centres, and the transfer of publicly owned heritage assets) to address the priorities for collaboration for this theme of the Heritage 2020 Framework.

Heritage and the High Street

The future of historic high streets is a key concern for the heritage sector as well as local communities, businesses and investors. Over the course of the Heritage 2020 programme, the Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management working group looked at how a heritage-led response could help to address the challenges faced by the high street in response to social and economic forces for change.

Heritage and the High Street: Mapping Activity

At the start of the programme in 2016, the group collated and published examples of research, toolkits and projects that promote a heritage led response to the changing face of the high street: High Streets Activity Mapping. 

It also created an online noticeboard for wider contributions – and although the Heritage 2020 programme has now finished, contributions to this resource can still be made here.

Heritage and the High Street: Which Way Now?

As its next step the group held an event, on 6 December 2017, to explore current and emerging issues in relation to historic high streets. It reviewed what’s working and what isn’t and discussed how to tackle barriers to achieving positive growth in historic centres.

The event brought together senior representatives in local government, the development industry, property sector landowners and policy makers with an interest in retail, high streets, town centres and heritage-led regeneration. It helped to develop an understanding of current issues through the presentation of four case studies:

Identity, place branding and marketing – Derby
Clive Fletcher, Principal Historic Places Adviser, Historic England

Innovative leadership – Great Yarmouth
Darren Barker, Great Yarmouth Building Preservation Trust

Planning – Birmingham Jewellery Quarter
Marcus Hawley, Director, Blackswan Property

Diversification – Sunderland
Les Clark, Chief Operating Officer, Place – Sunderland City Council

The event was kindly hosted by Trowers and Hamlins LLP in Birmingham and was Chaired by Rachel Campbell of the British Property Federation and facilitated by Elizabeth Clare of Historic England.
See an outline of the workshop, Heritage and the High Street: Which Way Now?

December 2017 #HeritageChat on ‘Heritage and High Streets – Which way next?’ 

This Twitter chat followed on from the group’s workshop and encouraged participants to share their knowledge and expertise on the role that Heritage plays in the economic health of High Streets and town centres. You can read a full summary of the discussion here.

Transfer of publicly owned heritage assets

The transfer of heritage assets from public ownership can provide a way to maximise the use of historic assets, and minimise factors which place heritage at risk, whilst also recognising the relevance of the historic environment to society.

The Heritage 2020 Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management (CCSM) group have used a Theory of Change Model (developed by the Architectural Heritage Fund) to identify which parts of the process are well-covered, and where there are gaps.

Find out more about the group’s work on the transfer of  publicly owned heritage assets.

A consultation (carried out by Heritage 2020 in 2016) on the priorities for each working group showed there is lots of guidance available, but it is difficult to find.

Historic High Street Heritage Chats

The CCSM working group hosted two Twitter chats on Historic High streets in 2019. 

In July’s chat, participants discussed the future role high streets will play in society and how they can best be used now. Also discussed was the information that is currently available for communities wishing to get more involved in the future of their high streets and what is missing in this regard.  You can catch up on the discussions here. 

September’s chat followed on from July’s, but this time participants specifically discussed what non-funding support could help local authorities and communities to regenerate their historic high streets. Discussions explored what role national organisations could play in this and what skills gaps there are that inhibit progress. Throughout the chat, excellent examples were shared of communities coming together to support their local high streets. You can read a full summary here.


The Heritage 2020 Framework document outlines the vision and priorities for collaboration for each working group. For the Constructive Conservation and Sustainable Management theme, this is:

  • By 2020 there will be ever more effective management of the historic environment through the planning system.
  • The historic environment sector will continue to demonstrate its role in promoting economic growth and be increasingly recognised as a positive contributor.
  • We will have improved the resilience of historic assets to the impacts of climate change and social and economic forces for change.
  • Heritage’s owners and government will jointly recognise the need to fund maintenance adequately.
  • There will be a shared understanding of how best to adapt the built environment sympathetically, to secure its future and conserve its historic significance through new use.
  • The overall condition of the historic environment will be better than it is now and cherished assets will be in beneficial use. Heritage at Risk registers will help monitor progress.

Priorities for collaboration

The key priorities that were identified for collaborative action by the sector are:

  • Ensuring systems of heritage protection that are the best than can be devised with the resources available.
  • Preventing and tackling heritage at risk through expertise and funding.
  • Contributing positively to the growth agenda.
  • Supporting landscape-scale management.
  • Resilience to social and economic forces for change.
  • Climate change resilience and energy efficiency.

The working group has identified the issues associated with these priorities, and has mapped activity in the sector. This has helped it to identify gaps that can be addressed by organisations working together. It has identified two priority areas (based on importance, urgency and achievability) that the group will work to address during 2016-17.

Priorities for 2016-17

1. Address the issue of the transfer and disposal of publicly owned heritage assets by collaborating on a package of guidance and support for local authorities, private developers and community groups.

2. Understand the impact of social and economic forces for change on High Streets and promote a heritage-led response to addressing the changing face of the high street.

Action Plan

Working Group Members

Over the course of the Heritage 2020 programme the following people and organisations contributed to the Constructive Conservation & Sustainable Management working group.

Steven Bee, Historic Towns and Villages Forum/Urban Counsel
Sam Bensted, British Property Foundation
James Caird, Institute of Historic Building Conservation
Rachel Campbell, British Property Federation
Elizabeth Clare, Historic England
Sara Crofts, Heritage Lottery Fund
Dawn Enright, Natural England
Ian Harvey, Civic Voice
Victoria Hunns, Natural England
David Kincaid, Institute of Historic Building Conservation
Owain Lloyd-James, Historic England
Fiona MacDonald, Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers
Matthew McKeague, Architectural Heritage Fund (Chair)
Ian Morrison, Architectural Heritage Fund
Carol Pyrah, Historic England (Chair)
Ingrid Samuel, National Trust
Matthew Slocombe, Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies
Jonathan Thompson, Country Land and Business Association (Vice Chair)


28 January 2020

The group began by discussing the latest updates in the sector regarding high streets. The group has provided a forum to share progress and identify complementary aspects of the three programmes that are run by three members of the group - Historic England (Heritage Action Zones), the Architectural Heritage Fund (Transforming Places Through Heritage) and Civic Voice (High Streets Task Force). The group discussed their work to develop case studies that can help to demonstrate the value of investment in historic buildings in town centres. It was decided to pick up again on the topic of the transfer and disposal of heritage assets and the group is seeking to engage with Historic England on progress in this area.

Conversations then turned to asset transfers and the need, but also practicalities, of updating current guidance. The group discussed what role they can play in this.

8 October 2019

Historic England provided an update on the Heritage Action Zones programme. Funding has been increased from £40 million to £92 million and 69 high streets are now able to benefit from the programme (see the list of places and map here). Programme designs for all 69 will be developed between now and January 2020, and the programme will formally start at the end of March 2020.

Applications to the High Streets programmes were more numerous than could be supported (more than 200 expressions of interest were received), so the September Heritage Chat (19th, 13.00-14.00) was used to explore what non-funding support communities need to regenerate historic high streets. The group discussed the benefit of a network of support for historic high streets, and a need for Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Future High Streets Fund to all be coordinated. Training from the Architectural Heritage Fund will be available to applicants who have not been successful in a HAZ bid, as well as those that have been successful.

The first set of awards from the Architectural Heritage Fund ‘Transforming Places through Heritage Programme’ has been made. These have gone to projects across the country.

Civic Voice provided an update on the Future High Streets Task Force. This will be run by the Institute of Place Management in partnership with Price Waterhouse Coopers. The Task Force will work with places receiving money from the Future High Streets Fund.

The group discussed the benefit of join-up between the different strands of High Streets activity and the value of the evaluation programmes for each scheme connecting across all programmes so that the social benefits of wider regeneration are clearly demonstrated.

11 July 2019

This group has revised its membership to include new representatives (Historic Towns and Villages Forum/Academy of Urbanism, and Civic Voice) that will help it to take forward its ‘High Streets’ activities.

Group members updated the rest of the group on the high streets related work that their organisations have been undertaking.  As a collective, the group then discussed the google doc which had been circulated ahead of the meeting to collect ideas about the key messages/ calls to action across various high streets programmes. The group agreed that the sharing of key statistics relating to these programmes would be useful.

The group then questioned how the June ‘Heritage and the High Street’ Twitter chat had performed compared, in terms of engagement, to other chats. It was agreed that the data would be provided for the next meeting. Finally, the group reviewed their action plan and agreed their priorities for the year ahead which includes communications messages; non-winners from HAZ/Future High Streets programmes; evaluation of high streets programmes; and asset transfers.

9 May 2019

The May meeting was timed to follow submission by Historic England and the Architectural Heritage Fund of their plans for the £50 million of funding to regenerate historic high streets that was announced in the Autumn 2018 budget.

Reiterated that high streets are the priority focus of the group for the next year.  Updates were provided by Historic England and the Architectural Heritage Fund on their related programmes and it was discussed how the group could contribute. It was noted that coordination with other place-based schemes will be important, as well as joint thinking about evaluation and sharing of metrics so that the evidence base for the impact of heritage and its re-use is improved. Group members then provided information on the high streets related activity going on within their respective organisations and discussed the potential for collaboration.

17 October 2018

The Theory of Change and mapping of group member activity to stages in it is complete and ready to be published online.

The group reviewed its membership with a particular emphasis on including other organisations that can contribute to the next area of focus which is High Streets.

6 June 2018

At its meeting on 6 June 2018, the group carried out a thorough review of its activities, to identify which actions were now complete.

They discussed the progress that has been made towards the publication of the asset transfer theory of change document and the associated mapping of sector activity against the stages in the theory of change. Final changes were agreed so that the documents can be published and shared with the sector more widely – as a means of sharing knowledge that the group has collated and asking for additional input to the mapping.

With reference to the ‘communications project’ to ensure better awareness of, and access to, guidance about the transfer of assets, the group discussed how the work aligns to a similar project commissioned by Historic England and how that project should generate a list of further research that could be sign-posted. The group decided that the brief for the communications project needs to be updated in the light of the Historic England project on guidance for community asset transfer.

Finally, group members carried out a last review of the document that collates information about recent activity focussing on the role of Heritage in the economic health of High Streets and identified a series of changes before publication and dissemination. The group also discussed a strategy for publishing the outputs of the December workshop on Heritage & the High Street, and the potential to work through other organisations to take forward this area of activity in the future.

The current Chair, Carol Pyrah indicated her intention to step back from the group after three years of chairing it – and was thanked for her leadership and facilitation of the group’s activities. Jonathan Thompson (Vice Chair) kindly agreed to become acting Chair.

1 March 2018

The group met on 1 March 2018. It discussed new activity relating to asset transfer/disposals to enable completion of the sector activity mapping. The group reviewed its work to scope a project to improve communication about the guidance available to support asset transfer in the light of a similar piece of work commissioned by Historic England for guidance on community asset transfer. This project will highlight the ways in which assets can be successfully transferred to communities and will include information on three pilot areas to generate a shared picture of Local Authorities activity. It is anticipated the work will be finished by early summer.

With respect to its priority area of ‘the role of heritage in the economic health of high streets’, the group reviewed the notes from the workshop that took place in December 2017. They discussed how to present the information so that it is clearer to people who were not part of the workshop, and a need to draw out the barriers, potential solutions and next steps more explicitly.

11 October 2017

The group met on the 11.10.17 to discuss outstanding contributions to the mapping of sector asset transfer activity (guidance, etc.) necessary before the resource can be published. The draft proposal for a Communications Strategy/Exercise to improve access to information and guidance on the transfer of public heritage assets was reported to be similar to another proposal under development; the two will be reviewed to see if they should progress as one or two projects.

The group also discussed final plans for a workshop (scheduled for 6 December 2017) on the role of heritage in the regeneration of high streets and considered options for post-event communication. The workshop will now include a range of case studies to support the four discussion themes and it is hoped that issues raised at the workshop will be used in one of the forthcoming #HeritageChats.

22 June 2017

The group met on the 22nd June 2017, welcoming HLF’s Head of Evaluation, who gave a presentation on HLF’s approach to evaluation and discussed the use of case studies. The group discussed the need to frame questions that supported the identification of case studies to be used for future learning, particularly for the transfer of public heritage assets. The group reviewed a draft proposal for a Communications Strategy for improving access to information and guidance associated with the transfer of public heritage assets, which is to be developed further. The purpose of a workshop on the role of heritage in the regeneration of high streets was outlined, as were potential questions and participants. The group also commented on proposals for the Twitter Chat format for the Autumn H2020 engagement exercise and the proposed topics (digital, climate change, health and wellbeing) for the 2018 Foresight session.

8 March 2017

The group reviewed ‘orphan actions’ within the Activity Log and selected ‘case studies’ as a topic for the next meeting. They agreed to seek final input to its work to add activity relating to the transfer of publicly owned heritage assets to stages in the ‘theory of change’ model. This document is to be published on the Heritage 2020 website.

The group also considered feedback from the consultation and identified the difficult in signposting and accessing guidance around the transfer of publicly owned heritage assets as an issue to be addressed in 2017-18. It agreed to scope a project to create a communications strategy in order to achieve this.

Finally, the group reviewed the summary of ‘high streets’ resources and initiatives, and agreed that this should be restructured, added to, and made available in a format to which others can contribute their knowledge. It was agreed that a discussion workshop on high streets could be a theme for 2017-18.

3 August 2016

The meeting reviewed the group’s Activity Log (which captures sector activity against the areas identified in the Heritage 2020 Framework as priorities for collaboration) and then focused on each of the draft action plans that are being developed to support the issues of ‘transfer of publicly owned heritage assets’ and ‘resilience of high streets to social and economic forces for change’.
The group discussed the activities on which organisations could work together, and where additional resources was likely to be needed. Members of the group agreed to add content to both action plans so that a version, that included actions for 2016-17, could be shared with the other working group Chairs and Vice Chairs at the end of August and subsequently the Historic Environment Forum in September.