Perhaps the most poignant sign of the times is the number of abandoned and boarded up shop fronts throughout the country, as the recession squeezes out retailers. But MPs are resolved that Britain will not become a nation of half-life ghost towns, and instead are introducing a frankly brilliant initiative to provide thousands of small grants of up to £1000 to people who can find ‘creative reuse’ for these vacant shops.
Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, has joined forces with culture secretary Andy Burnham in providing the project with £3 million of funding. And, with a conservative estimate of 70,000 retail outlets set to close this year, along with the staggering statistic that in Northampton already 1 in 6 shops have closed, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
The possibilities are endless, with the potential for disused shops to house the next art sensation – or even NHS drop in centres – in a trial of the scheme in Torquay, two empty units were transformed into an NHS Stop Smoking service shop and a young person’s advice center.
Hazel Blears said, “Empty shops can be eyesores or crime magnets. Our ideas for reviving town centres will give communities the knowhow to temporarily transform vacant premises into something innovative for the community – a social enterprise, a showroom for local artists or an information center – and stop the high street being boarded up. Town centres are the heartbeat of every community and businesses are the foundation so it is vital they remain vibrant places for people to meet and shop throughout the downturn.”
We are very excited to see our high streets transform into artistic hotspots!