Privately owned buildings

The HSHAZ focuses on a key stretch of the High Street falling within the Dunstable Conservation Area. It includes an area fronting High Street South and adjoining Middle Row and Ashton Square and on the opposite side of the road it extends to the rear of Priory House and includes Priory Gardens.

The building works and refurbishment will involve undertaking physical works to privately owned properties in the HSHAZ area. It has not been determined which properties this will include and this is partly dependent on which private property owners or long-term tenants choose to work with the HSHAZ. Works will include repair, reinstating lost features and supporting the conversion of historic buildings for new uses.

Please click on the two buttons/ links below for more information from Historic England regarding  Guidance for Property Owners/tenants and the online grant application form.

In 2021, the following private properties accepted grants awarded for initial feasibility studies comprising Preliminary Condition Surveys to inform applications for physical works.

20-22 High Street South

24 High Street South

26 High Street South

12-14 High Street South

Conception Architects completed Preliminary Condition Surveys for all of the above properties. These initial studies were completed by September 2021 and at present none of these properties are working further with the HSHAZ at this time.

4 High Street South

The owner of Number 4 High Street South, a key building in Dunstable’s High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ), has chosen to withdraw from the programme for the time being, whilst officers continue to explore ways in which to preserve this historic building.

When you arrive at Dunstable’s crossroads, a frequent question asked is: “What’s the plan with that building?”

That building is Number 4 High Street South, which is fondly remembered as a former butcher, Tilley’s.  The Town Council knows how important this building is to the residents of Dunstable and this was one of the reasons why we looked to obtain High Street Heritage Action Zone funding, as previous efforts to bring life back into this building had failed.

Since August 2020, officers at Dunstable Town Council have been encouraging the owners to be part of the HSHAZ scheme, and with the support of skilled colleagues at Historic England and Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) have been successfully working with the current owners since February 2021. However, this relationship has, at least for the time being, come to an end. Although, never say never, as none of the parties involved have given up.

To date, much work has taken place at the property, although it may not be visible from the outside. Numerous surveys have been undertaken to more fully understand the history of the building and the extent of the repair works required. Conservation Accredited Architects (Conception Architecture) have been engaged in drawing up design options and costs; designs that would meet modern day needs whilst retaining the building’s important architectural features.

Behind the scenes there have been many conversations, and time spent trying to find a viable option that would work for the owners, the local planning authority (CBC), and the funder. Recently though it became clear that the current plans to bring this building back to life as part of the HSHAZ were just not feasible.  Escalating costs of building materials and labour have not helped, but the complexity of the building (far greater than anyone had anticipated) means that there is no easy or affordable option. But we hope there are still options for the future.

With extensive experience in supporting the repair and reuse of historic buildings, Historic England is keen to exhaust all potential options in order to preserve and protect the building. As part of this, they are exploring the possibility of the site being used to train the future craft and trades people required to restore historic buildings.

For now, the building is no longer part of the HSHAZ, which ends in March 2024. Focus of this will now turn to other buildings in the HSHAZ area in need of works.

Councillor Peter Hollick, Chair of Community Services, Dunstable Town Council says “It was always the hope of the Town Council that by the end of the programme we would be looking at a repaired number 4, and it is looking increasingly likely that this will not be the case.  However, what we will be able to say is that we have learnt a lot more about this historic building and the complexities of preserving such buildings when working with private owners, and that we have done everything that we can to try and ensure its future. Whilst the public might be disappointed in the outcome, the Town Council equally share these frustrations, but knows all that could be done has been done. Colleagues at Historic England equally have been and are working hard to explore alternative routes and this determined attitude is something everyone has to admire and appreciate.”

The tenant of Number 7 High Street South (Heringtons Chemist) has chosen to withdraw from the programme following the tender process.

A planning application was submitted for in late March 2022 for a new shopfront. Permission for the new shopfront designed by Conception Architects was granted in late July 2022 and Conception Architects managed the tender process which concluded on 29 September 2022. Unfortunately due to the costs, the tenant (the grant recipient) has chosen to withdraw from the programme.

Repair works to 18 High Street South

It’s been a long time coming, but Dunstable’s High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) has seen its first physical repair grant completed at number 18 High Street South.  This long-standing vacant property (which some might remember as Chilli and Spice, with a Buddleia growing out of the guttering), has had roof repairs thanks to a HSHAZ grant of £18k.  The owner then took the opportunity to invest more money of their own to refurbish the upper floors into residential accommodation, with the ground floor still being available shop space.  This is fantastic news, and something that so many local people have been asking for.

Cllr Peter Hollick, Chair of Community Services Committee stated “It’s been a long wait to see this much wanted and much needed improvements in the HSHAZ area, but it has been worth it.  To have successfully engaged with the owner of this long-standing vacant property shows the commitment that the Town Council has to improving the high street and regenerating its historic core.  I very much hope that this inspires other owners in this area to take similar action whilst there are still funds available.”

Tony Calladine, East of England Regional Director, for Historic England said, “It’s such great news that the first building repair has been completed in the Dunstable High Street Heritage Action Zone. I’m looking forward to seeing local people using and enjoying this revitalised space and hope that other building owners will take inspiration from this successful project.”

The High Street Heritage Action Zone is a national programme headed up by Historic England to help regenerate over 60 historic high streets across the country, of which Dunstable is one.  Dunstable’s £2.4 million scheme is run in partnership up by Dunstable Town Council and Historic England.  It focuses on the High Street South, Middle Row area of the Town centre Conservation area.  The scheme is now in its third year, running until the end of March 2024. battlefields to parks and pie shops. We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.

We have been liaising with the owner of 21-23 High Street South (formally Moores) since Mid-August 2020. Discussions resumed in November 2021 and over the last year various parties including the owner, Historic England, Central Bedfordshire Council, Conception Architects and Dunstable Town Council have been involved in project meetings.

In late February 2022 Conception Architects commenced some design work in respect of 21-23 High Street South. In Mid-June 2022 Conception Architects commenced some additional design work to address the owner’s feedback along with an overarching costing exercise. The costing exercise was completed in later July 2022 and only covered the shopfront and associated work that would be funded by the HSHAZ. A grant offer to assist with a new shopfront and associated work was issued at the end of September 2022. We are delighted that the owner has now accepted the grant offer and had decided to work with the HSHAZ.

Conception Architects will now commence finalising the design work and preparing a Section 73 Application for the shopfront. Following which Conception Architects will prepare tender documents and will be leading on the tender process.