The reputation of KCC’s No Use Empty scheme, bringing empty and derelict homes and commercial premises back into use, has led to a similar scheme being set up in Southend-on-Sea.
With KCC’s help, the local authority there wants to bring between 10 and 15 empty buildings back into occupation across Southend, Basildon, Thurrock, Castle Point, Rochford and Brentwood, and has invited KCC to manage to approval process.
Interest-free secured loans will be offered to owners and developers to support the development of alternative commercial uses or create mixed-use commercial and residential properties.
Subject to an approval process, which will be managed by KCC, loans are available in multiples of £25,000 up to a maximum value of £175,000, with the maximum loan term being three years.
Southend-on-Sea City Council says NUE SE will focus on town and city centres and secondary shopping areas, where high streets and other commercial areas have been significantly impacted by changing consumer demand and the after-effects of COVID.
Loans are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and can be provided as ‘top up’ funding – so if developers cannot secure all the funding that they need from a bank they can ‘top up’ their bank funding with a loan from NUE SE.
Steve Grimshaw, the strategic programme manager for KCC’s NUE, said: “It is encouraging to see other areas adopting Kent’s approach when it comes to tackling empty properties.
“NUE has a proven track record for delivery. Kent has been awarded a total of £3million from the Growing Places Fund allowing us to return more redundant commercial properties back into use, primarily in our coastal towns. We wish Southend and south Essex every success and are pleased that a new partnership has been formed.”
Derek Murphy, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “We are understandably pleased with the impact that No Use Empty is having on the property scene across Kent, but it is also satisfying to see its reputation leading to similar projects elsewhere.”
Emma Cooney, director of regeneration and growth for Southend-on-Sea City Council, said: “We hope to counteract the increasing numbers of empty premises by supporting owners and developers to bring them back into commercial use. Short-term zero-interest loans are proven very effective for businesses, and we look forward to making them available across Southend and south Essex.”
The project follows securing £2.2million of Government funding from the Growing Places Fund (£1million) and the Getting Building Fund (£1.2million). This new project in Southend-on-Sea and across south Essex will run until March 2026.
KCC’s NUE team has previously assisted Bristol City Council in setting up a similar scheme and this week Mr Grimshaw was sounded out about whether one could be adapted to suit Jersey, where there are currently about 4,000 empty homes, although the island has different housing laws from mainland UK. An interview this morning on BBC Jersey about the situation there can be found here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0bz91pp, starting at about 2.06.38.