Last week I went to Shrewsbury to see a great social enterprise scheme which has transformed an empty shopping centre.
The Shrewsbury SEZ (social enterprise zone) is a great example of how we could work with the private sector to make the most of empty retail units.
The one we saw in Shrewsbury has a busy community café, small independent shops, a community arts facility and gallery, a big charity furniture shop – lots of really interesting, busy places.
The shopping centre is now full because the once off-putting, hardest to rent units are being used, and people have a reason to go there to shop.
I now want to look at how we could work with landlords of empty units to bring something like this to Sandwell.
I’m really interested to look at how we can help transform empty shop units while supporting social enterprises and small start-up businesses.
We’re already working with and supporting social enterprises – we have a bunch of inspiring young people who have set up fledgling businesses for the benefit of the community with help from the council.
We need to do more to fill empty shop units to encourage growth, to create sustainable, interesting local shopping areas and to support our businesses. Watch this space for developments.