Leeds high street heritage bid gets big funding boost

Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Alastair Wallace

An ambitious bid to revitalise an historic area of Leeds city centre has been successful.

New Briggate is set for a string of improvement projects after proposals by Leeds City Council were backed by the High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) programme.

The nationwide funding programme, managed by Historic England, is designed to support physical improvements, community engagement and cultural activities which will regenerate historic high streets.

The proposals for New Briggate, which fall within the Grand Quarter Conservation Area, aim to revamp the streets and buildings around some of the city’s key cultural assets including Leeds Grand Theatre, The Grand Arcade and St. Johns Church.

The bid for up to £1.3m, matched with Leeds City Council funding, will include repair works to historic buildings on the street, encouraging new businesses and investment and bringing empty floor space back into use. The final grant amount will be revealed in January 2020. It is hoped this could in turn also attract £1m of private sector and other funding.

The scheme will also compliment a number of other ongoing initiatives in the area including road works and public realm being delivered as part of the Leeds Public Transport Investment and Our Spaces programmes, along with the £18m renovation currently being brought forward by Opera North.

The energy efficiency of some of the area’s traditional buildings will also be improved, with the hope these adaptations could act as a template for how the city’s pre-1919 buildings can play a key role in Leeds meeting its climate emergency commitments.

The project will utilise new technology to provide opportunities for local people, businesses and those in the construction sector to learn and develop new skills. The council will work alongside partners and the community as well as local experts and artists to make sure any plans are in keeping with the heritage of the New Briggate and Mabgate areas.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for climate change, transport and sustainable development said: “It is fantastic that Leeds has been successful in such a competitive funding arena.

“Securing this funding is an acknowledgement that Leeds is one of the best at delivering heritage led regeneration. This project will make a real difference to New Briggate. Not only will it improve the vitality of the area and make it an attractive, engaging and vibrant place for people to live, work and visit, it will also further support our efforts to create a better connected city.

“This Heritage Action Zone funding will enable us to work with local stakeholders to further enhance the historic environment and to make the most of the cultural opportunities and the ambitions we as a city expressed in the Leeds 2023 Cultural Strategy.”

Trevor Mitchell, regional director for Historic England, said: “High streets are right at the heart of our communities. It’s fantastic news that New Briggate will receive this much needed boost to help bring new life to the historic high street.

“Our high streets face many challenges, with some historic buildings underused and down at heel, but with a little investment and imagination they can be transformed into vibrant places that attract new businesses and other new uses. Historic high streets have a crucial role to play in delivering economic growth and attractive environments in which we can live, work and play. Historic England is looking forward to working with local people in New Briggate on this exciting historic high street project.”

The New Briggate project follows on from the successful efforts to breathe new life into Lower Kirkgate, one of the city’s oldest streets, which has seen a number of historic buildings revamped and brought back into use.