12 UK towns and cities are to benefit from a new £5 million fund empowering communities to breathe new life into their disused and at-risk historic buildings.

Stretching from Aberdeenshire to Cornwall, the money will help social enterprises and charities in some of the country’s most deprived places take over dilapidated high street and town centre buildings and transform them into new community spaces, workplaces and homes.

The funding includes support for organisations in Medway, where a Grade II-listed former hospital mortuary will be turned into a new community space, Derry/Londonderry where work is focused on restoring a number of heritage buildings within Derry/Londonderry’s historic walled city and Glasgow where work will focus on revitalising the city’s rich heritage.

The funding is being awarded as part of a new partnership between the National Lottery Heritage Fund and charity the Architectural Heritage Fund, to expand the Architectural Heritage Fund’s Heritage Development Trust model across the UK following the success of a pilot programme in England.

The programme has already supported seven Heritage Development Trusts to repair, restore and reuse at-risk buildings in their local areas, including not-for-profit Valley Heritage in Bacup, Lancashire. Last year, Valley Heritage restored an empty Victorian bank building into a new co-working space and housing for homeless young people. Meanwhile in Sunderland, Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust has transformed a row of Georgian merchants’ houses once threatened with demolition into a vibrant music venue, coffee shop and bar.

Research by Historic England has found almost half of retail buildings in England and Wales, one-third of offices and almost one in five industrial buildings are more than 100 years old. As many as 6,000 shops have become vacant in the last five years according to the BRC’s Local Data Company vacancy monitor from this summer.

The 12 new Heritage Development Trusts will also operate in areas such as Leicester, Luton and Haverfordwest, and they will each funding of between £55,000 and £70,000 a year to acquire and redevelop a pipeline of local historic buildings. The trusts can also apply for grants to support early project development, and will be given guidance from consultants and mentors to develop their skills and knowledge alongside peer-to-peer support to expand their network of contacts.

Arts & Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “Through its Heritage Development Trusts, the Architectural Heritage Fund has helped to breathe new life into old buildings across England, creating new jobs, homes, and opportunities.

“I am delighted that this new partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund will take the scheme nationwide, making a difference to people and communities across the UK.

“I look forward to seeing how these 12 new projects develop and the difference they make to people’s lives – now and long into the future.”

Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said: “Heritage has a lot to offer the future of the UK’s places and people. Bringing old buildings back into productive use will protect our country’s rich architectural past while creating important new homes, workplaces and community and cultural venues. We’ve already seen the many benefits this work can bring to communities across the country, including through the success of our first Heritage Development Trusts across England.

“Our partnership with The National Lottery Heritage Fund is an important commitment to continuing this work in 12 more areas of the UK by giving more people the funding they need to work together to save and restore their most historic and at-risk local buildings. We’re very grateful to The Heritage Fund for this partnership, and to National Lottery players for making it possible.”

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “As the UK’s largest funder of heritage, we collaborate with organisations which share our vision for heritage to be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future.

“I am delighted that our £5 million grant funding is supporting the expansion of the Heritage Development Trust programme across the UK – stretching from Medway to Glasgow. This partnership with the Architectural Heritage Fund  is supporting communities, charities and heritage groups in 12 towns and cities, to develop plans for the transformation of at-risk historic buildings – boosting pride in place, connection to the past and investing in the future.

“Over the next 10 years, we aim to invest £3.6 billion raised for good causes by National Lottery players, and this programme is one of the ways we can support projects of all sizes across the UK to make a decisive difference for people, places and communities.”