June 2020 Update: 

Our Open Doors sites at Bradford, Stoke-on-Trent and Kettering have now completed their one-year pilot periods and been returned to their landlords. Sites at Slough and Rochford, which opened later, still have several months left to run - however, ongoing Covid-19 restrictions on community gatherings mean that we are not able to use them at this time.

In light of this, we are currently unable to review submissions from new groups applying to be part of this programme.

We have received very positive feedback about the Open Doors programme so far, and are working on developing all that we have learned together into new recommendations for the use of temporarily vacant properties to reanimate our post-lockdown high streets.


The Pilot
Spring 2019 - Spring 2020

Funded by MHCLG Open Doors is a pilot scheme taking place in five areas, matching landlords struggling to find tenants for their empty properties with community groups looking for space. The pilots will be directly managed by the independent charity, Meanwhile Foundation in partnership with Meanwhile Space CIC, chosen for its existing work and experience in operating a brokerage service matching vacant premises with community groups looking for spaces to work. 

Through these partnerships and with the support of the landlords, 5 vacant spaces on high streets across England, have been opened up for local people to test community focused ideas that could make positive use of a high street space and involve bringing people together.

The Spaces

The 5 pilot sites chosen are located in Bradford, Fenton (Stoke-on-Trent), Kettering, Rochford and Slough and are activated for a period of up to 12 months. The spaces are offered free of charge to individuals and organisations who would like to test their ideas, deliver their projects and bring positive social change to their local high street. Find more information on each space here

Each space has been simply refurbished to deliver a bright, approachable and positive space with plants, comfy chairs, desks and lockers to get community groups started. Space branding and design has been delivered at each site by Studio ND.

Call for community uses to activate the space — Apply for the space

Do you have an idea on how to make your local high street more social? We welcome a broad range of community-orientated ideas and proposals that could make positive use of this high street space and will be reviewing applications throughout the year. The ideas don’t have to be fully formed at this stage, this is a chance to test them out in a supportive space. The space is offered free of charge to successful applicants. 

How to apply

The application process below is designed to be mutually beneficial to us as operators of the space and to you. Both parties will get the chance to meet, to talk through your project to explore how it could fit within the space. 

1. Information
Have a look at the spaces listed below to see what spaces we have available.  

2. Application Form
Complete the application form

3. Telephone Interview
Don't worry! This is not supposed to be intimidating. We ask everyone the same set of simple questions that allow us to consider your proposed use of the space against a set of criteria which are important to the overall success of the project. The criteria are listed below.

4. Visit the Space
If relevant we will arrange a site visit for you to the site.

5. License to Occupy 

6. Move in and start using the space


  • Quality - In your opinion, what makes your proposed use stand out?
  • Perspectives on the space - What excites / interests you about being part of the space?
  • Ambitions - What do you aim to achieve during your time in the space? 
  • Attitude to sharing space - Are you willing to adopt a constructive approach to the both the challenges and opportunities of sharing space with others?
  • Viability - How confident are you that you can meet the costs of your proposal and make the most use of the space on offer?
  • Localness - How are you connected to the local area? Do you have a good understanding of the area and how do you think your business could contribute to / fit in with the local community?  Can you think of any political sensitivity related to your proposal? 

Conditions for use

  • Participants can apply as an individual, a group, or as a company
  • All applications should be led by someone over the age of 18
  • The spaces can be shared with other participants on a rota and collaboration between different individuals and/or groups is possible. 
  • All participants will be responsible for the space during their use of it and will be expected to leave the space clean and secure for the next user
  • A flexible set of furniture will be provided in the space for all to use
  • Any participants requiring bespoke equipment for their proposed use will need to provide their own. 
  • Proposals don’t have to run for the full 12-month period and can be programmed for a particular timeframe
  • There will be no cost for participants to take part in the pilot outside of any personal insurance needed to run the spaces (if applicable)
  • There will not be a permanent on site manager to support your activities - users are expected to operate relatively self sufficiently. Remote support and ad hoc on site support will be available where necessary. 
  • There is no fee available for your proposed use
  • Ideas of a political or religious nature will not be eligible 
  • We will seek to maximise use of the space and impacts of the pilot project and will programme the space in a way that achieves the objectives best
  • Participants are expected to contribute towards the evaluation process of the pilot undertaken by the Ministries of Homes Communities & Local Government

Apply for space

We will be reviewing incoming applications throughout the year and aim to get back to you within 2-4 weeks after submission. 

For more info and to talk to someone about applying for space email [email protected] 

Freelance Project Assistants

Meanwhile Space has recruited locally based Freelance project assistants across the 5 sites to assist with the day today running of the space. The main aim of this role is to provide locally based support to the core Meanwhile Space team in the delivery of Meanwhile use projects and services. 


"The Meanwhile Foundation exists to support community groups to bring facilities and services into more visible spaces on an interim basis. The process can be daunting, but Open Doors is showing how supporting community meanwhile uses on high streets all over the country can bring vibrancy to underused spaces and a reason for people to come together and enjoy activities"
— Emily Berwyn, Chief Executive of Meanwhile Foundation

High streets open doors to community projects — Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government  

‘Meanwhile spaces’: the empty shops becoming a creative force across the country — The Guardian

Britain opens its doors to communities in need — Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Project to turn empty retail units into community hubs goes live — NewStart Mag

"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"
— Jake Berry MP, High Streets Minister

[email protected] Meanwhile Foundation is registered in England and Wales under charity number 1151901 and company number 08251662 at c/o Anthony Collins Solicitors Llp 134, Edmund Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B3 2ES. We use cookies to improve your experience using this website.
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