Local authorities in the UK

There can be up to three levels of local government in the UK: town or village councils, borough or district councils made up of various towns or villages, and county councils made up of many boroughs or districts. All hold different property portfolios for different reasons, have different strategies, plans and agendas, and have different funding available. A key skill for people approaching empty shops projects is to be aware of these different agendas and offer projects that dovetail with the differing needs and expectations of the different local authority officers.

Letting agents are often the most direct route to accessing and using a property. However, the letting agent wants to find a long-term commercial client and suggesting a temporary, rent-free tenancy to the owner is against their own interests. To engage with letting agents, projects must offer some clear benefit; for example cleaning and maintaining run-down shop units.

So potential users have three challenges: first to find a space, then to negotiate an agreement to occupy the premises, and finally to bring the space back to a useable condition. These can, as we have seen, be overcome with creative thinking and commitment. But this is, of course, above and beyond devising a project in the first place - and finding the funding for it.