Have a great idea for a project that could improve your local area but don’t have a place or space to house it? Read our top tips from the Mayor of London on how to find the perfect space.
- Walk around your neighbourhood looking for spaces that aren’t being used. Think creatively – are there buildings or spaces that don’t have commercial value but could be perfect for a community space?
- Talk to local estate agents, who might be able to help with temporary ‘meanwhile’ uses of commercial space at low cost
- You can find out if a site is publicly owned, through the Mayor of London’s website here.
- You can look up who owns any land or building on www.landregistry.gov.uk (for a small fee)
Make sure your space is suitable for what you want to use it for:
- Make a checklist of essential elements you need for your project. For example, size, delivery access, character.
- Taking along an architect or other building professional can help you understand whether there might be practical problems with a site or building, that you might not spot.
Secure your space
- Contact the owner, stating what you want to use the land or building for. It will help if you already have an outline project plan, to show that you are serious and realistic.
- You don’t necessarily need to buy or rent the space. You can get a licence to use it – temporarily or permanently – which can be easier.
- Help on ‘meanwhile’ (temporary) leases for buildings can be found here.
- Help on leases and licenses for community gardening and park projects can be found here.
- Try to get a letter of agreement from the owner before you pitch your project to funders.
- For a bigger project, get a ‘Heads of Terms’ agreed – you will need a solicitor to help you with this. This will set out the terms for you using the site, and when you get your funding confirmed you can take this forward to a full contract.
Case Study: The Livesey Exchange
The Livesey Exchange in Old Kent Road started when a local resident and community enabler spotted the potential of the large underground garage space on the Ledbury Estate, to be transformed into a resource for the local area. Working with another local resident and architect, they successfully crowdfunded through Crowdfund London to make garages safe and accessible, to consult further with local residents, and to trial workshops and other activities in the garages.
They negotiated with the local council, who owned the estate, on a lease for the space. As hard-wearing and industrial spaces, the former garages are perfectly suited to being filled with makers from a range of industries, opening up opportunities for training and further strengthening the network of manufacturers operating in the Old Kent Road area.
Lessons to learn:
- Think of ideas that really work with the character of the space you want to revive
- Trial different functions through ‘pop-up’ activities, to see what works well
- Don’t be afraid to ask to use space you don’t own in getting funding for your project
For more considerations when planning your community project, download the Mayor of London’s Community Projects Handbook as part of Crowdfund London.