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Project to turn empty retail units into community hubs goes live

The unit that is being used in Kettering.

The Open Doors project, which sees five empty shops across the country turned into community hubs, has gone live today (July 17).

The year-long pilot will see five empty retail units in Stoke-on-Trent, Bradford, Rochford, Kettering and Slough taken over by community organisations offering a diverse range of services such as well-being classes, business support sessions and mentoring for social enterprises.

It will be delivered by the Meanwhile Foundation, a volunteer-led charity set up in 2012 to harness expertise around utilising meanwhile spaces.

They’ll work alongside their social enterprise arm, Meanwhile Space CIC, and the Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities (MGHLC) to tackle social problems linked to declining high streets such as crime, unemployment and loneliness.

The spaces are available free of charge to local community groups. Applications to use the spaces are being accepted on a rolling basis throughout the pilot period.

This week, community hubs have opened in Stoke-on-Trent, Bradford and Kettering.

High Streets Minister Jake Berry said: ‘With landlords, organisations and the government working together, we have given unused spaces a boost and created fresh opportunities for projects which benefit local communities.

‘Local hubs and social projects bring people together and can play an important role in tackling the social and economic challenges we face, like loneliness and unemployment.’

‘The Open Doors project is just one of the ways the government is working to transform our high streets. We are committed to helping local high streets adapt to the challenges they face and want communities to engage, to thrive and to enjoy their vibrant town centres and high streets.’

Earlier this year, NewStart spoke to Jessica Tsang of the Meanwhile Foundation about the project.

Read the story here.

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