We’re asking councils to implement a new planning classification of ‘ReSpace’, which enables landlords and community groups to easily collaborate on the re-use of empty buildings.
A meanwhile lease system has already been created to try to counter this problem, however it is largely unknown and suffers from a fundamental flaw in that it is the cash-strapped community groups who are usually required to produce expensive feasibility plans, prove their credentials and gain difficult to obtain funding and charity status. This discourages smaller independent groups from pursuing such a lease for buildings that have no concrete timescale for their usage.
This situation has lead to the rise of giant profit-making property guardian companies creating a market for properties that are not up to market standard. These temporary cheap rents will only rise over time.
The solution lies in our showcase project The Hive in Dalston, an independent social space that opened up 2 weeks after getting permission from the landlord on about £250. The self-sustaining project was set up in May 2015 and has so far facilitated hundreds of unique events, including workshops, conferences, seminars, exhibitions, cabarets – as well as enabling several start-ups businesses and helping a variety of charities by storing donations and raising funds. Details of our most recent events can be found in our latest newsletter.
ReSpace Projects propose this new classification, ‘respace’, as a feasible solution to this problem by allowing the landlord or community group to apply for respace status which covers the temporary use of a building by community interest, social or charitable groups – without affecting the status of the building when it returns to use by the landlord.
This classification would automatically provide the landlord with a rebate on their empty building rates, meaning that they don’t pay anything whilst the building is in respace. It would also allow any renovation or modification to the building, agreed by the landlord, to enable its use. In addition to this the building will be maintained by community groups, ensuring that the property is protected.
Given the inherent not-for-profit status of respace buildings, they should have a more flexible set of liabilities and regulations that cover their safe operation but encourage creative and experimental solutions. Respace status should confer upon a building or project a favourable view from licensing and regulating authorities.
This will require a more “hands-on” approach from communities, social enterprises, planners, councils and developers, however as highlighted by our recent Respacing Conference, the need for this new approach is urgent.
Sign the petition available ***here*** to encourage councils to give more buildings to groups like us!