Bristol Vacant Shops
Full Case Study
Shop vacancies are clearly a sad reality in most high streets in the UK and can quickly have a significant negative visible impact on neighbouring sections of the street, attractiveness, footfall and ultimately sales and business vitality.
The council sought to create a simple and accessible scheme in which small existing businesses or new businesses could apply for up to £10,000. An initial pilot in Bedminster was extended later to the whole city.
Summary extract from the initial application process:
How do I apply? Please see the separate application form which requires: · Proof of ownership/lease – if you do not own the property you will need to provide proof that you have permission from the owner to carry out the works · A business plan (we are flexible about the approach you use but brevity will be rewarded) · Any available visuals of what it will look like following the work · If your application is eligible and you have provided all the required documents you will be invited to a meeting with a representative from the panel to discuss your application · Successful applicants will receive an offer letter and grant agreement which must be signed and returned within 14 days from the date of offer, or the grant offer may be withdrawn. · In some instances, we will make a conditional or a grant award in principle prior to planning consent and will issue a formal grant offer letter as soon as permission is granted.
The initial grant scheme was run jointly by the council and the local BID with all final approvals controlled by the council, but with a local panel of businesses providing recommendations. Ini addition the council were able to integrate this scheme with other existing ongoing business and job creation projects to positive effect.
Ten successful grants and shop openings materialised despite the project launch coinciding with the first covid lockdown) at a total grant cost of £93,358. In addition the council agreed a management fee of £12,375 for the BID to run design, set up and and run the initial scheme (plus further marketing, accounting and contingency costs).
Simplicity of process and application was at the heart of this scheme to encourage businesses that may otherwise be discouraged by the perception of too much bureaucracy. This simple application form and guidance note was provided in a single web page promoted via social media and a series of webinars.
Ten new businesses opened from the pilot scheme providing an estimated 49 FTEs. The scheme was extended in 2021 and is current across the whole city.