Physical interventions

Artist interpretation of potential shop front improvements on Oxford Road
Artist interpretation of potential shop front improvements on Oxford Road

Town Centres and High Streets are important places not just for local economies, but also for social cohesion and well-being by providing a destination where people gather and mix. The High Street Heritage Action Zone programme focuses on understanding and regenerating historic buildings on the high streets, investing in the public realm, restoring local character and supporting the features that make these places unique.

By unlocking the potential and revealing the heritage in Reading, the intention is that historic buildings will be put back into use, conservation areas will be improved to kick-start regeneration and renewal, and unsung places will be recognised and celebrated for their unique character helping to instil a sense of local pride within the High Street Heritage Action Zone and also making them more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors.

The aim of the Reading High Street Heritage Action Zone is to secure sustainable, heritage-led town centre growth to create a more vibrant, connected and enhanced historic centre. There will be greater economic activity, lower vacancy, better fabric condition, diverse employment opportunities, more visitors who stay longer, and more activities to engage local people in Reading’s heritage.

St Marys Butts and Castle Street HSHAZ

St Marys Butts and Castle Street HSHAZ

What will the project be doing?

  • Investment in listed buildings, including facades, fore­courts and boundaries.
  • Shopfront improvements in the HSHAZ Conservation Areas.
  • Surveys to support, protect and enhance culturally significant assets.
  • Improvements to public realm in the HSHAZ high streets.

How can you get involved?

Grant Scheme – We can offer 80% of the cost…

Historic England and Reading Borough Council are looking to provide grants for owners of individual properties who want to carry out appropriate repairs or other work which will restore the building and enhance the area. 20% of the costs of the work will be paid by the building owner, with the remaining 80% from Historic England and Reading Borough Council.

We can offer up to 80% of the cost of carrying out these works where they include repair and restoration of lost features from the original shop/property fronts.

Wardwick, Derby – before and after photographs of building regeneration work
Wardwick, Derby – before and after photographs of building regeneration work

What are the potential outcomes and benefits of the grants scheme?

Grant funding has the potential for:

  • Appropriate re-use of vacant historic buildings, increasing the property occupancy rate and improving economic viability and diversity
  • Improving the condition of buildings along the Oxford Road and Castle Street/St. Mary’s Butts
  • Improving the day and night-time vibrancy of the town centre and to increase the number of visitors
  • Greater employment opportunities for people in the town centre, particularly amongst 18-24 year olds
  • To engage local people in Reading’s rich heritage
  • Making the Oxford Road and St Mary’s Butts/Castle Street a more attractive place to live, work and visit.

What are we doing?

As part of the study the team will need to carry out a building condition survey, focussing mainly on external façades and fabric, shop fronts and identifying missing architectural elements. We use this to identify priorities and form the basis of a report to establish the feasibility of any future partnership funding scheme.

Consultation sessions

We’ve been holding in person and video consultation sessions with local property owners over the past month to discuss our findings and to give owners opportunities to ask questions about how they can get involved and obtain partnership funding.

If you are interested to find out more about the scheme then please email us at: HSHAZ@reading.gov.uk 

Historic Area Assessment

Archway Heritage together with the Built Heritage Consultancy and Ultranyx is carrying out a Level 2 Historic Area Assessment in Reading’s Town Centre together with a review of heritage assets, identifying their significance and analysing historic urban character areas in and around the town centre.