High Street Heritage Action Zone

The High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) is a nationwide initiative in the form of a grant programme. It is run by Historic England on behalf of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, with a contribution from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Programme is designed to secure lasting improvements to our historic high streets, through physical improvements, that are delivered alongside a cultural programme with a focus on community engagement.

Bedford was selected as one of the 68 towns across the UK to receive a share of the £95 million fund. The grant will be used to facilitate the four-year HSHAZ programme, investing in Bedford High Street, local communities and visitors.

Objectives of the HSHAZ

The objective of the HSHAZ is to make the High Street a more attractive place for communities to live, work and enjoy leisure activities through the following:

  • Undertaking physical works to buildings; including repairs, reinstatement of lost architectural features and shop fronts. It will support the conversion of historic buildings for new uses to improve the quality of the shared space whilst emphasising the merit of the conservation area.
  • Facilitating cultural activities and events celebrating the history of the high street whilst giving local communities a key role in activities to decide what they want to see happening in their town centre and what sort of place they want it to become.
  • Reducing the impact of traffic in the high street and improving the local environment to increase economic activities and footfall in the town centre as part of ‘Transporting Bedford’ programme. This is enabled through a number of infrastructure improvements, supported by Bedford Borough Council, South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and BedfordBID - The local Business Improvement District (Love Bedford).

Bedford’s HSHAZ projects

  • 19-21 High Street – conservation repairs to the building’s architectural features, and repainting of the façade.
  • 58 High Street – replacement of the shopfronts and inclusion of traditional decorative details.
  • 90 High Street/1A Lime Street – replacement of the building’s adjoining shopfronts, which meet at the corner of the High Street and Lime Street.
  • 97 High Street – realignment of the building’s shopfront and lowering of the threshold to provide level access.
  • 107 High Street – shopfront replacement and reinstatement of traditional signage and lettering. Roof repairs and upgrades to the windows in the building’s upper floors. 
  • 113 High Street – replacement of the shopfront and repairs to the building’s roof.
  • Public space improvement works – repaving of Silver Street and widening of the High Street’s pavement.

Bedford’s Heritage Action Zone Community Engagement Programme

The HAZ Community Engagement Programme funds community-based projects which promote Bedford’s history and heritage. Projects to date include:

  • Invisible Folk High Street Walking Tour – this app-guided Walking Tour allows visitors to discover the history and heritage of key landmarks along Bedford’s High Street.
  • Memories of Bedford’s High Street – a video has been created featuring Stonewater Independent Living residents reminiscing about Bedford’s High Street through the decades.
  • Aragon Lacemakers – a video has been created featuring local group Aragon Lacemakers sharing the history of lacemaking in Bedford. The HAZ Programme has also contributed funding towards a new display showcasing lacemaking at The Higgins Bedford.
  • Futuristic Bedford – a community event hosted by LUMA Sounds celebrated Bedford’s High Street through the creation of artwork depicting what the High Street may look like in the future.
  • Bangladeshi Heritage Day – a community event to celebrate Bedford’s Bangladeshi community was organised by iLearn Bedford.
  •  Words Unheard Live – Outreach Music Group hosted community-based creative writing workshops, which culminated in a live performance of poetry and music inspired by Bedford’s High Street.

Bedford’s Heritage Action Zone Cultural Programme

The HAZ Cultural Programme aims to bring local organisations and communities together to celebrate Bedford’s history and culture, through a variety of different projects. The Programme has funded the following events:

  • Memories of Mandela
  • Sound System Museum
  • Luma Sounds Community Event
  • Take to the Streets
  • Circus of Illustrators
  • The Vault Digital Game
  • Creating Together
  • Growing up Italian

See Bedford Players Trust for more information about the HAZ Cultural Programme.

Read our Bedford HSHAZ e-newsletter (PDF) for more information on the project. 

Visit Historic England to find out more about High Street Heritage Action Zones.