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Clegg speeds up meanwhile use plans for the North

Words: Laura Edgar

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is speeding up plans to bring life to empty buildings in the North with the support of local organisations and landowners.

After the launch of the Northern Futures initiative in November last year, at which Clegg emphasised the need to tackle the number of empty buildings across the region, the deputy prime minister and local charities have formed a working group with Legal & General, The Co-operative Group and Network Rail, amongst others, to make these buildings available to charities, community groups, artists and entrepreneurs.

These organisations and groups will be able to use the buildings to test ideas and stimulate growth in the community, stated Clegg.

The working group is due to meet in February to discuss proposals and work out how plans can be put in place. It has, Clegg explained, already started to connect local authorities, property companies and land owners with community groups and business ventures, as well as working with Local Enterprise Partnerships to pull together flagship projects across the region before April, including in Newcastle and Hull.

Clegg said: “This is part of a huge revitalisation of Northern cities. Through my Northern Futures initiative, we’re encouraging a stronger economy by giving start-ups a chance to grow, whilst keeping our cities buzzing from the centre to the outskirts.

"Leaving useful land in the North to languish is not only bad for business, it affects an area in so many ways. I’m pleased to be bringing landowners together to make incredible spaces available for artists, start-ups, and other entrepreneurs to restore the buildings’ purpose and appeal.”

The Co-operative Group is currently offering 41 sites to charities and community groups across the UK, while Legal & General is redeveloping a site in Salford and exploring meanwhile use opportunities.

Director of commercial and investment property at The Co-operative Group Geoff Player said: “We are pleased to be involved in this initiative: offering temporary access to short-term occupation of certain surplus properties that would otherwise be vacant fits well with our group purpose of a better way of doing business within these communities.  Our Community Property Project is still in the process of being developed, and we hope to bring more buildings back in to use in the months and years ahead."