Public and private landowners have been invited to submit bids to a government programme which aims to set up community spaces for groups who are unable to afford a full lease.
Applicants will receive full funding for their pilot programmes under the government’s ‘open doors’ project. Funding will cover costs related to remediation, set-up and assistance with business rates.
Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire said the programme, which will see five spaces set up in England, would help “transform” high streets into “vibrant community hubs” as it would reintroduce the community into empty shops and other run-down spaces.
Mr Brokenshire also said in a speech in Bristol that the government estimated there to be 27,000 premises in England’s town centres that are currently vacant.
Applications must be made by 14 December and should satisfy the government’s criteria: that spaces should be located on a high street or in a town centre that can “demonstrate above-average vacancy rates”; be available “for at least 12 months from spring 2019”; exceed 1,000 square feet in area and require “no more than £25,000” to ensure it can become fit for use.
Decisions will be made between the Meanwhile Foundation and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and announced in January.
Mr Brokenshire said: “We need to be imaginative in tackling the social and economic challenges our communities face. This includes seizing the enormous opportunity before us to transform our high streets into vibrant community hubs where people work, live and shop.”
The chancellor announced a £675m fund at the autumn Budget to help redevelop Britain’s high streets, saying it would help councils “facilitate redevelopment of under-used retail and commercial areas into residential”.
The government also launched a consultation after the Budget, seeking views on whether or not to remove the need for planning permission when redeveloping high street shops into different uses.