‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ features as a scalable solution in think tank’s nation-wide town centre revival plan

A graphic with title 'A Platform for Places' and subtitle 'Reviving town centres by changing how communities access property'

Earlier this week, Radix think tank and a coalition of high street stakeholders published exciting new plans to revive high streets nation-wide.

The report, titled A Platform for Places, includes a number of case studies and proposals to revitalise urban centres, and uses our ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ programme as an example of models that are already working in this space.

Each of the examples drawn upon in the paper feature local networks and partnerships, make it easier for social enterprises to access property, and centre or involve the community in the vision, decision-making and management of the spaces in question. Makespace Oxford and the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ programme is mentioned alongside a number of other exciting projects run by organisations including Historic Coventry Trust, Bywater Properties, Sheffield City Council, Nudge Community Builders, Islington Council and more.

The proposals from Radix & Platform Places

The paper is the first initiative of the cross-sector coalition, Platform Places, which will launch later this summer. It aims to catalyse change in the way we use our high streets, encouraging communities, property owners, investors and local and national government to work together to drive positive social change.

The proposals made by this paper, based on scaling successful case studies including ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…‘, include:

– The creation of a High Street Buyout fund to help communities move at the pace of the market to purchase empty high street property and build long-term resilience in town centres

– A specific business rates relief for socially-trading organisations

– A recommendation that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities directs local authorities to adopt community lettings policies

– Growing the Heritage Development Trust to use historic assets to revitalise high streets

– A consultation process around Community Right to Buy, helping community groups purchase long-term vacant or derelict property where suitable

– Support, as a last resort, for councils to use Compulsory Purchase Orders to tackle buildings that are long-term vacant or derelict without a valid reason

‘A genuine shared passion and willingness across stakeholders’

Since launching the initiative, Radix and the coalition behind Platform Places have witnessed a genuine shared passion and willingness across town centre stakeholders to address the issue of empty space and to breath life back into the UK’s towns.

Commenting on the report, Radix CEO, Ben Rich, said: “‘A Platform for Places’ is a new community-led strategy to revive our high streets, based on practical experience of what works. It is led from the bottom up, but the opportunity exists for the Government to turbocharge its impact by taking on board these proposals to bring vibrancy, increased footfall and new revenue to struggling town centres.”

They recognise the challenge of working on an initiative involving so many stakeholders, but believe that it will be a powerful catalyst, encouraging communities, property owners, local and national government to work together in partnership to drive positive social change on our high streets and in our town centres.

Sharing learnings from ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’

At Makespace Oxford, we are encouraged to see our ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ programme included in this report and referenced in proposals for how councils, landlords, local stakeholders and communities can bring their urban centres back to life, and look forward to working with Radix and Platform Places as the initiative moves forwards.

Andy Edwards, Co-founder of Makespace Oxford and Programme Lead for ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ says: “As it stands, our towns are very spatially fixed, with market forces dictating how spaces are used and who does and doesn’t have  access  to space. Through ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ we’re learning a huge amount about how we might redesign the system to respond more to local needs, guided by placemaking and creating a positive social impact.

We relish the opportunity to share these learnings with organisations such as Radix and Platform Places, and are heartened to see this movement growing. We truly believe that we can bring our high streets back to life with a much more equitable, community-powered model than the one we’ve had to date.”

Read the original press release and the full Platform Places report here.

‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ is a county-wide initiative seeking to reanimate underused space in our urban centres. The programme was developed by Oxford City Council, with funding secured by OxLEP from the central government’s Getting Building Fund.⁠

OxLEP, HM Government and Getting Building Fund logos