Platform: A town centre property innovation programme

How do we make it easier for communities to access town centre property and space?

We’re excited to announce that Power to Change is one of the partners behind Platform – a six-month online programme that aims to make town centre property more accessible to communities. 

“The UK’s high streets are the beating hearts of our communities but they have reached a critical tipping point,” says Nick Plumb, Policy Manager at Power to Change. “Three decades of decline, further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has left them extremely vulnerable. A new vision for our high streets is urgently needed. Power to Change has seen the transformative effect community businesses can have in driving the renewal of their high streets. At the same time, one of the biggest barriers to more community activity on the high street is access to space. So, we are delighted to be working with partners on Platform to develop practical solutions to this long-standing challenge.”

Other programme partners include High Streets Task Force, British Property Federation, New Local, Shoosmiths and Radix. Each partner represents a different town centre stakeholder group, and brings national reach and influence. The programme is being convened by community entrepreneur and systems change leader Rebecca Trevalyan

Want to join the programme?

We’re looking for 15 leaders from across the UK with personal experience of the retail/commercial property system – ranging from community entrepreneurs to local government to property owners – to join us to: 

  • Share their experience
  • Spotlight existing innovations in property access and ownership
  • Identify ways to grow these innovations
  • Lead the debate on how we move beyond the outdated ‘landlord–tenant’ relationship, towards partners in place 
  • Discuss and share any key policy recommendations with relevant government departments

 

Why town centre property? 

The pandemic has catalysed the decline of traditional retail as the dominant offer in our town centres. There is a growing consensus that a significant part of the new town centre offer must be community-led, experiential and addressing local needs.

But to do that, we need to change town centre property practices. According to Mark Robinson, co-founder of Ellandi and Chair of the High Streets Task Force: “Retail property was a £72 billion industry and we are starting on the journey about what comes next – so this conversation about how to place communities at the centre of this change is really important.”

Platform aims to make use of this unique moment to redesign how we organise the land and buildings at the heart of our neighbourhoods – especially given that:

  • 14% of UK shops are empty, and over 800,000 retail and hospitality jobs have been lost due to the pandemic 
  • Fragmented high street ownership and some traditional property practices are serving neither communities, local governments, nor property owners
  • There’s a lack of trust and collaboration between community entrepreneurs, local authorities and property owners 
  • The loneliness crisis, heightened by the pandemic, means there’s a need more than ever for spaces and services that bring together diverse local people 
  • The ecological and climate crises mean there’s a need for spaces and services that help us all to live low-waste, low-carbon lives

 

With all this in mind, how might we make it easier for communities to be involved in their town centres, including owning and managing local spaces? This is the guiding question for the programme.

What does Platform hope to achieve?

  • A menu of practical interventions that make town centre property more accessible to communities – and a plan for scaling such interventions
  • Shared understanding of different types of community entrepreneurs and their needs, and different types of property owners and their motivations
  • Templates where helpful for scaling interventions – whether ‘social value leases’, or blueprints for establishing local asset-owning trusts 
  • More relationships, trust and understanding between public and private property owners, and community leaders 
  • Shared consensus on what further innovation and policy change is required and an understanding of this consensus by policy makers

 

Long-term success looks like communities in towns and cities across the UK using property as a platform to meet local needs – plus widespread adoption of new viable models among both public and private property owners.

View the draft programme outline here.

The ask and offer to participants

The ask to the 15 programme participants:

  • Approximately 1 day per month over 6 months, starting in June 2021
  • A commitment to participating in conversation and follow-up actions constructively – this isn’t a talking shop!
  • A commitment to an ethos of trust and collaboration
  • A commitment to Chatham House rule for the duration of the programme
  • Agreement that all materials created in programme will be made available and disseminated publicly, for example under a Creative Commons license

 

The offer to the 15 programme participants:

  • Opportunity to help grow pioneering property models for town centres around the UK – and to lead the narrative of community-led places coming together in the aftermath of a global pandemic and recession
  • Opportunity to build network of leaders across property owners, local government, and community-led enterprise
  • Opportunity to play a role in policy development and influence government
  • If a community entrepreneur or if funds are otherwise a barrier to entry – receive a modest day rate for your time 

 

How to apply

Take 10 minutes to fill out this light-touch application form

We will select participants who: 

  • Have motivation and availability for the programme
  • Represent a balanced mix of community entrepreneurs, local governments, property owners and other property system stakeholders
  • Represent diverse geographies and demographics

 

Deadline for applications: Tuesday 25th May at 6pm

Any questions? Please contact Programme Lead Rebecca via rebecca@libraryofthings.co.uk 

Want to follow our progress? 

Please do sign up to the mailing list here to hear updates and opportunities emerging from the programme.

FAQs

Why a limit of 15 participants? 

Whilst we would love to be able to make this programme open to everyone, we recognise that the more voices we have on online calls, the harder it is to ensure airtime for everyone and depth of conversation. 

As a systems change programme, we want to ensure representation of many stakeholders and perspectives in town centre property, including a balanced mix of geographies and demographics – we hope to achieve this with a group of 15 people plus programme partners.

Wherever possible, we will publicly share programme conversations, actions and opportunities for involvement – please do sign up to the mailing list to follow along!

Why this group of partners?

Each of the six partners involved in the programme represents a different stakeholder group in the UK town centre property system. We believe no single stakeholder group can change complex systems like property. Each of us will bring our unique perspectives and networks, to find solutions that work for local people and places around the country.