Heritage led regeneration

Like many other towns across the UK, Lowestoft has experienced decline in recent years and areas of the town, such as the historic High Street, were in need of reinvigorating to help them to thrive and reach their full potential.

Lowestoft has a rich history and is fortunate enough to have two Heritage Action Zones, which are heritage-based regeneration projects led by Historic England in partnership with East Suffolk Council.

The North Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) focuses on the North Lowestoft Conservation Area with its medieval High Street and Scores, as well as the newly completed Ness - the UK’s most easterly park.

The newly created London Road, Lowestoft High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) encompasses a significant portion of the South Lowestoft Conservation Area, including the harbour and the seafront.

Both schemes are working to secure lasting improvements and help breathe new life into the town’s high streets for the benefit of local communities and businesses.

The challenge

Like many other towns across the UK, Lowestoft has experienced decline in recent years and areas of the town, such as the historic High Street, were in need of reinvigorating to help them to thrive and reach their full potential.

The solution

In 2019, the North Lowestoft Conservation Area was designated as a Heritage Action Zone (HAZ). This was followed by the South Lowestoft Conservation Area which was designated as a High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) in October 2020.

Both the London Road, Lowestoft HSHAZ and the North Lowestoft HAZ will make the Conservation Areas vibrant places in which to live, work and visit. The HAZs champion the value of heritage within the high streets, using that heritage for positive change to address the current decline facing the areas. The schemes encourage sympathetic and sustainable improvements to the built environment, where communities have pride in place and are actively engaged in the area’s protection and presentation through a programme of events and training. The HAZs will be a place to invest in and do business, where the historic character and environment brings forward new ideas and innovation.

The HAZs are delivered by a partnership team including East Suffolk Council, Historic England, Lowestoft Town Council, Lowestoft Vision (Business Improvement District and part of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce) and the East Suffolk Building Preservation Trust. The HAZ team also work closely with the Most Easterly Community Group - the resident and trader’s association in the North Lowestoft HAZ, and Community Action Suffolk.

The impact

Protecting historic buildings

The HAZ team are working with local businesses and property owners to repair and refurbish historic buildings in both HAZs, which are suffering from physical degradation such as a loss of architectural features, poor quality shop fronts and unsympathetic repairs or alterations.

To boost regeneration, conservation grants are available for building repairs which benefit the appearance of the conservation areas, and the reinstatement of lost architectural features. By 2024, £700,000 of capital investment will be spent on improvements to shop fronts in the HAZs. The team are currently processing a number of applications from building owners in the North Lowestoft HAZ and so far, over £20,000 has been awarded.

In 2020, the North Lowestoft HAZ adopted a Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document which helps determine planning applications for new development and help facilitate the delivery of high-quality design in the HAZ area.

The HAZ team is also working hard to bring vacant and ‘at risk’ buildings back into use as housing or retail spaces and enhance the quality and connections for the historic streets and public spaces.

One of the most prominent buildings in the North Lowestoft HAZ is the former Town Hall, located on the Historic High Street. The former Town Hall is a key project within the North Lowestoft HAZ and has the potential to support local regeneration. The overall aim is to restore the Grade II listed building for mixed-use, community activities, facilities for artisans and creatives, gallery space and events.

The building, which has been vacant for five years, underwent a feasibility study in 2019 to explore options and indicative costs, which will be refined further through a business and outline activity plan, which has been funded by the Architectural Heritage Fund.

Green spaces

Completed in 2020, a key green space in the North Lowestoft HAZ is The Ness, the UK’s most easterly park. The Ness is a visitor destination that celebrates the culture and heritage of its location, through landscaping, play area and onsite digital activity. It has transformed a semi-derelict green space and seafront promenade into an events and cultural heritage space. The North Lowestoft HAZ has also secured Towns Fund Accelerated Funding to enhance an open space into a green ‘pocket park’, with work expected to start this year.

The HAZ teams also work closely with the Council’s waste operator, East Suffolk Norse, to help keep the High Street tidy. This includes educating residents about waste collections and managing fly tipping incidents in the area.

Small business support

Throughout the pandemic, the HAZ team has been supporting local High Street businesses, by providing social distancing materials, supported by the Government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund. The team also ensured that High Street businesses were kept up to date with Government announcements regarding funding and ways to access it.

There is a new confidence being felt in the North Lowestoft HAZ with 15 new businesses starting up or expanding in the High Street since March 2020. Many of these businesses, as well as existing ones, participated in an ‘open for business’ social media campaign last year.

Cultural programme

The North Lowestoft HAZ is working to deliver good quality open spaces and cultural events for both the community and visitors to enjoy, especially during the nationally celebrated Heritage Open Days. During the Heritage Open Days events in 2019, the HAZ team worked with nearby secondary school, the Benjamin Britten Academy, to exhibit GCSE art from Year 10 and 11 students in an empty shop, which attracted over 400 visitors.

Subject to funding, a three-year programme of cultural opportunities for residents is planned for both HAZs, exploring the histories of shops and buildings. When appropriate, a ‘shop local’ campaign will showcase the businesses providing services to local communities to help drive footfall back into specific parts of Lowestoft. Communities will also be given the opportunity to start planning activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1953 flooding, and 10th anniversary of the 2013 flooding, both of which devastated the town.

More information

North Lowestoft HAZ

London Road HSHAZ