Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Government Announces Something Quite Interesting

Hazel Blears the 'communities minister' has announced plans to help invigorate rundown town centres by allowing Artists and Social enterprises to use empty shops at little or no cost on short temporary contracts.

Hazel Blears said "Town centres are the heartbeat of every community and businesses are the foundation so it is vital that they remain vibrant places for people to meet and shop throughout the downturn.

"Empty shops can be eyesores or crime magnets. Our ideas for reviving town centres will give communities the know how to temporarily transform vacant premises into something innovative for the community - a social enterprise, a showroom for local artists or an information centre - and stop the high street being boarded up"

There is to be a £3million fund to give small grants to help enterprises take over empty shops.

There is already a movement helped in part by local authorities to use vacated premises for artistic ventures, and a network has been formed to share experiences, information and publicise temporary spaces.

Some small businesses have criticised the scheme saying that they need help and more art galleries and information centres won't stop the decline of the high street but the initiative points out that low cost temporary shops have in the past allowed businesses to take chances that they wouldn't have been able to given long leases and high rents and many of these temporary spaces have spawned successful enterprises. One example is Neals Yard who took over a disused warehouse in Covent Garden and are now a huge cosmetic and herbal medicine company and Neals Yard has helped to create a thriving area of small independent shoppng/businesses in a previously rundown area of central London.

1 comment:

Dan Thompson said...

There are plenty of examples of this working as a business incubator; from Caroline Brown's charming boutique in Saltaire,to London's Roundhouse.

The concern is this is being mis-sold by the government, upsetting small businesses and not showing the real benefits - for example, the Pop-Up Gallery in Worthing Guildbourne Centre attracted 400 visitors in 4 days, about 50% saying they didn't usually visit the shopping centre. That's great marketing support for those small businesses already there.

And also - this puts the process in the hands of local government, who haven't in the past been the biggest supporters of the exsiting projects!