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Clegg presses for meanwhile use in the North

Words: Laura Edgar

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg would like to find temporary uses for vacant buildings in Northern cities.

Clegg believes that finding a use for abandoned buildings would prevent blight in some areas of Northern cities.

Instead of empty cinemas, post offices and schools sitting empty, Clegg wants to “match-make” entrepreneurs and community groups with local authorities and land owners to find meanwhile uses for these buildings. After visiting Berlin to see the Betahaus project, which has successfully repurposed derelict buildings, Clegg feels the meanwhile use of buildings to be underused in the North of England and wants to see if it can mirror Berlin’s success.

“Leaving useful land in the North to languish is not only bad for business, it can hamper the success of an area in so many ways. Which is why I want to see empty buildings brought back to life and back in business,” said the deputy prime minister.

“We need to understand what stands in the way of some of the most incredible space in the country being used, and make things more flexible so that we can fill these buildings with artists, start-ups and other entrepreneurs to restore the buildings’ purpose and appeal.

“Through my Northern Futures initiative, I’m championing innovative ideas from people in the North to build a stronger economy and fairer society,” he said.

The North has 10,130 hectares of previously developed land and buildings that are vacant compared with 5,580 hectares in the South. To capitalise on this potential, Clegg immediately plans to form a working group comprising local government, businesses and charities.

Inspired by a pitch at the Northern Futures Summit earlier this month by Elaine Cresswell about bringing vacant commercial buildings back into use, the group will investigate how this can be achieved in areas including Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle. It will then present its findings and solutions to Clegg in January 2015.

Speaking to The Planner, Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, said: “I think on the face of it, it sounds like a good idea, with it being worked up in consultation with the relevant places and in full cooperation with the city councils and businesses.”