Open Doors: Pilot Programme Report
High streets in the UK are experiencing high vacancy rates and landlords are struggling to find tenants. As a result, The Open Doors scheme was piloted to increase meanwhile use of units to trial how this could enable landlords and communities to transform empty shops into community hubs.
The vacancy rate across UK High streets in 2018 was 11.3% and contributes to worsening a range of socio-economic factors such as crime, unemployment and social isolation. In order to address and tackle these issues, the Open Doors scheme was designed and piloted in an attempt to increase meanwhile use of units, trialling how this could potentially enable landlords and communities to transform empty shops into community hubs. The scheme was launched by the Ministry of
Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in partnership with Meanwhile
Foundation and was piloted over a one-year period, pairing landlords who struggled to find tenants up with community groups searching for space. This report includes an evaluation of how the scheme worked as well as the timeline of the pilot, the impact it had along with case studies and lessons learned.
There were five properties that were selected to take part in the Open Doors scheme pilot, in: Fenton (Stoke-on-Trent), Bradford, Kettering, Slough and Rochford. Use of Open Doors space was offered free of charge to both individuals and organisations and aimed at community focussed activities. This enabled the opportunity to test ideas from people in the community and allowing them to deliver their projects and fuel positive social change for the high street.
Upon evaluation, the key impacts of the scheme were:
- Services delivered to support young people and elderly at risk of suffering from loneliness.
- Increased footfall in the high streets.
- Building stronger communities, both socially and economically.
- Raised the profile of the communities.
- Help landlords struggling to cover business rates, utility bills and other costs.
- Repurposing the use of empty high street units.
The report concludes that meanwhile use of empty shops can help revitalise the high street. Particularly, the conclusion highlights that meanwhile use can facilitate space for community, cultural and entrepreneurial ideas to flourish, especially in areas that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.