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Heritage Action Zone

What is a Heritage Action Zone

Woolwich is one of 68 High Streets Heritage Action Zones across England, and one of only five in London, that will be given a new lease of life thanks to a £95 million government-funded programme. The fund is being delivered by Historic England and will unlock the potential of high streets across England, fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery and breathe new life into town centres for future generations.

The town centre suffers high levels of vacancy in historic properties at its western end. The High Street Heritage Action Zone aims to help reconnect the historic retail core, working with other major initiatives to deliver widespread regeneration.  

Woolwich is home to a number of historic buildings, including the Grade II* Town Hall, the former Granada and Odeon cinemas, alongside grand shopping parades and early cooperative buildings.

Some historic buildings in Woolwich Conservation Area are run-down and others are being changed, particularly at street level, masking and damaging their heritage and character. Vacant shops are also a growing problem. 

How the High Streets Heritage Action Zone will help 

The High Streets Heritage Action Zone will: 

  • improve links from the Royal Arsenal to the town centre via Beresford Square market 
  • restore shop fronts and facades 
  • explore how buildings can be repurposed 
  • deliver cultural events promoting local history and diversity 
  • make improvements to the public open spaces to make them more attractive and welcoming 

The aim of the scheme is to attract residents from nearby communities to the market and the town centre, increasing spend and footfall, supporting local businesses and increasing the diversity of what's on offer in the town centre for residents. 

Public art commission opportunity 

We invited expressions of interest from local artists for new artworks in Woolwich town centre.  

To support the high street by animating currently blank walls and facades in Woolwich, five sites for new public art were identified in:

  • Barnard Close
  • Mrytle Alley
  • Calderwood Street
  • Beresford Square (coming soon)
  • John Wilson Street

The artworks will highlight Woolwich's historic high street, add colour and creativity, and celebrate the local people who make up Woolwich today. 

The murals will make Woolwich more attractive and vibrant for residents, businesses and shoppers and will compliment wider shopfront and public realm improvements being delivered by the High Street Heritage Action Zone and Future High Street Fund projects. 

Download and print the mural trail map to find all the murals.   

Read the public art commission brief 

Woolwich Front Room

We have officially opened the Woolwich Front Room, a new creative community space on Powis Street.

It has transformed a vacant shop unit into affordable, flexible community, work and exhibition space with a café. The space is run by GCDA on behalf of the council and offers hireable space from £20 per hour, with a reduced rate for charities and not-for-profit groups.

Cultural Programme 2020-2024 

Historic England is leading a national High Streets Cultural Programme in partnership with National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Arts Council England as part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones initiative funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

The Cultural Programme features new digital and physical artworks inspired by the nation’s high streets including Woolwich. It aims to make our high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time. Commissioned artists will work with local communities on high streets across England to co-produce artworks that respond to, document and reflect the changing high street. The new artworks will also be considered for submission into the Historic England Archive, the nation’s archive for records of England’s historic buildings, archaeology and social history. 

Woolwich’s Cultural Programme: 

Woolwich Speaks: Community led poem with Poet in the City and RevolYOUtion that was turned into a short film and interactive public art installation. The Life on the High Street project captured stories about Woolwich High Street and wove them into a poem written by RevolYOUtion’s Rasheeda Page-Muir. 

High Street Tales podcast: ‘In Between Days' by Merrie Joy Williams. In her short story poet and novelist Merrie Joy Williams was inspired by the local community. Her story explores the rich history of Woolwich through the eyes of its teenage resident, Karim.  

Reclaim the River: A community design competition by RESOLVE Collective saw a temporary art trail created during February 2022. A range of community artworks were installed between Woolwich Town Centre and the river.