Small businesses and community groups on London’s high streets are set to receive a share of up to £9 million of funding from the Mayor of London to help revitalise and potentially reinvent the way we use our high streets. In an innovative move the Mayor has allocated a portion of the funding through crowdfunding website Spacehive, where community groups are able to post their ideas and ask for financial support.
It is the first time the Mayor of a major European city has used a civic crowdfunding website to directly pledge money for community projects. 83 groups submitted ideas and the Mayor will be pledging up to £20,000 each to 17 of these projects. Projects that have successfully bid for funding in this way include:
- Making a Makerspace in Herne Hill – a project creating a long-term home for South London’s only member-owned and run community workshop where people can develop new businesses, discover new technology, and pursue their hobbies. The project is a good example of how the Mayor’s support for high streets goes well beyond retail.
- Tottenham Fast Food – an ambitious restaurant initiative providing healthier alternatives to fast food and creating jobs and training opportunities in the centre of Tottenham. The project will create an outlet in the centre of Tottenham where young people can eat and learn about healthier food options whilst facilitating school visits from food experts, including farmers and leading chefs who will lead workshops.
The grants awarded through the Mayor’s High Street Fund today will be invested in 42 high streets across London, including 25 larger borough-led projects and 17 community-led projects. The Mayor’s £9 million investment has levered around £20 million of match funding from local authorities and private sector partners. £3.42 million of this match funding is specifically for culture related activities and is in addition to almost £3 million from the High Street Fund, making almost £6.5 million for grass roots cultural and creative activities.
The Mayor’s commitment to culture and the creative industries is clearly demonstrated through the award of nearly a third of the funding to projects with a cultural element. Cultural and creative projects feature strongly, with Mayoral funding supporting over 90,000sq feet of new workspace, 10 new festivals and 10 new works of art.
A roving pop up comedy club in empty shops on Romford High Street, an artistic workspace in Haringey and a new cultural quarter in Roehampton are amongst the projects that have successfully bid for a share of the High Street Fund. And grants for creative initiatives will help provide:
- at least 8,306 sqm (89,404 sq ft) of new creative workspace and production space;
- three new creative hubs;
- 10 festivals;
- 10 new artistic commissions including several permanent public artworks.
As well as crowdfunding projects from community groups, the Mayor is funding 25 larger borough-led projects with up to £2 million each. Projects that will receive funding include:
- Whitechapel, London Borough of Tower Hamlets – The package of works includes provision of new workspace, business support, marketing and events. This will promote a lively economy and ensure that employment and enterprise are at the centre of change in Whitechapel. Funding from the Mayor will build on the success of the High Street 2012 project that saw over £36 million invested in over 20 projects along London’s oldest high street in preparation for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, creating a more cohesive and lively route between the City and Stratford.
- Brixton, London Borough of Lambeth – This project is part of a long-term plan for the Brixton that has been developed by Lambeth Council with the aim of creating a vibrant, dynamic town centre that nurtures local trade and diversifies the town centre offer. The proposal includes developing a Brixton Market Strategy to improve layout, appearance, wind protection, congestion and the flow of customers. The major renewal of the public realm in Electric Avenue will also take place, as well as creating free Wi-Fi zones and providing a ‘Brixton £’ cash machine which will increase access to the popular local currency and in turn support the local supply chain.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:
“The imagination, enterprise and creativity of Londoners has shone through in the array of ideas that were put forward to the High Street Fund. London’s high streets are no longer about retail alone and I am thrilled to be supporting projects that seek to diversify and unlock opportunities in our most prized urban assets.”
The High Street Fund is the latest in a series of funding rounds, which started in 2011 with the Outer London Fund, aimed specifically at helping London’s high streets to adapt and thrive. These initiatives are part of the Mayor’s £129 million investment in high streets that has already helped 56 high streets across London and attracted £56 million of match funding from public and private sector partners. The £9 million fund has a target to deliver:
- 543 jobs (created or safeguarded);
- support to 920 businesses;
- 52 apprenticeship;
- 34,555 m2 of public space improvements;
- reactivation of 24,446m2 of empty shop space;
- 141 buildings improvements;
- 111 new start-up businesses.
For those who missed out, there is still over £285,000 available in the second round of community-led Spacehive projects. To be considered for support, ideas should be posted on the Mayor’s Spacehive page and be actively crowdfunding before the next round of pledges on Monday 29 June.
The Mayor has secured a further £20 million for London’s high streets and employment areas through the London Enterprise Panel’s Growth Deal funding from government. Bidding will open this summer, and funding will be available from 2016/17.