There is no greater reminder of the transformation of our local economies than the decline of activity on our high streets. Heritage may not seem like an intuitive means of tackling this challenge – but the UK’s wealth of historic buildings in high streets and town centres represent an untapped opportunity to reimagine the future of our common spaces.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) came to us to help with making this opportunity clear to decision makers, and in particular to show how an innovative, community-led model of urban regeneration called the Heritage Development Trust (HDT) can help communities transcend the short term retail model, and build a durable mix of long-term charitable, private and public support for a new kind of high street.

They asked us to help them build broad-based traction for this ambitious model and secure greater influence over the place-based policy making agenda.

  • We worked with the AHF to harness the power of their unique model and align their internal vision with their external communications.
  • To take their ideas into the mainstream, we crafted a core narrative that enabled them to communicate with nuance and precision.
  • We also delivered a communications strategy which enabled them to enter the most relevant debates and reach the right audiences with existing resources.
  • Building on this foundation, we secured media coverage in major national outlets, held events with high-profile thought leaders and decision makers, and created materials and content that helped explain the key opportunities in accessible ways.

Cohere have helped us bridge a challenging divide between our more traditional audiences and new, in the context of our aspirations to represent a bright, positive future for our nation’s heritage assets. They are a pleasure to work with.

Matthew MckeagueCEO, Architectural Heritage Fund

Animated Film

The AHF has pioneered a new way to revitalise town centres through community power and collaboration. We worked with the AHF to package this method of development as a distinct value proposition, the Heritage Development Trust (HDT). Following this strategic work, we developed an animated film to explain the HDT model and position the AHF as a leader in heritage policy.

National Media Coverage

The documented decline of the high streets in mainstream media broached uneasy questions about the future of our town centres. We saw this as an opportunity to surface the AHF’s innovative model and position the organisation as a practical and effective leader in regenerative development.

Influencing events

Faced with the dramatic shift in our patterns of consumption, work and leisure during the pandemic, the AHF asked us to help them bring the case for local reinvention to the fore. We convened the event, “Resurgence: creating a new future for our town and city centres”, featuring Financial Times Writer, Martin Sandbu who spoke on the role of local civic identity and heritage. The event was attended by over 50 key decision makers and influencers from the private, public and charitable sectors, and played a key role in ensuring AHF’s place in future policy and funding decisions.

Supporting Resources

The AHF’s ambition to scale the Heritage Development Trust model necessitated a consistent approach to communication which would tie together the local approaches and promote its broader impact. We designed a toolkit to support Heritage Development Trusts to communicate what they do and why they do it at a local and national level. Through this approach we were able to increase the awareness and interest of policy makers, leading to increased funding and support for the model.