Grants to bring vacant buildings back into use

A new grant scheme has just been launched to help Bristol’s economic recovery – offering businesses and organisations up to £10,000 to bring vacant buildings back into use.

The £1.3 million initiative, funded by the City Council, hopes to encourage new types of businesses – including creative and cultural activities, services and community uses – into the city centre and 47 high streets across Bristol.

Filwood Broadway and Wells Road/Broadwalk Shopping Centre are two of the streets/local centres able to benefit from the support – which aims to “boost customer footfall, create new jobs and improve the sustainability of businesses.”

Filwood Broadway is set to benefit from the grant scheme to bring vacant properties back into use.

The Vacant Commercial Property Grant Scheme is open to applications from new or expanding small or micro-sized businesses as well as charities, community, voluntary or social enterprises.

Small or micro businesses are defined as having fewer than 50 employees, a turnover of £10.2 million or less and £5.1 million or less on its balance sheet.

Applicants hoping to lease or rent a previously vacant commercial property can apply for grants up to a maximum of £10,000 – but the size of the funding depends on the length of lease or rental agreement. They are expected to match any award by at least 20 per cent.

The scheme forms part of the wider City Centre and High Streets Recovery and Renewal programme, which has received funding from the West of England Combined Authority’s Love our High Street project.

Deputy Mayor and Cabinet member for Finance, Governance and Performance, Councillor Craig Cheney, said: “The city centre and Bristol’s high streets have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 over the last 18 months.

“Offering support in the form of the vacant commercial property grant scheme offers a lifeline to our high streets. Opening new businesses and diversifying what is on offer will increase footfall and encourage people to shop locally, support their high streets and boost Bristol’s recovery.”

Grant is “unlikely to apply to more than one or two retail premises at Filwood Broadway”

But Tim Jones, Chair of the Filwood Broadway Working Group (FBWG) said the new Vacant Property Grant was ” unlikely to apply to more than one or two retail premises at Filwood Broadway” as so few shop units were unoccupied.

He said: “Although some appear to be unused the main problem is that they are under used, with shutters down most of the time.

“Filwood Broadway Working Group is working with the council and businesses to explore ways in which the high street can be revitalised as a thriving community hub.

“FBWG has asked the council if some of this funding could be directed to helping current tenants to make better use of their premises and sustain existing businesses.”

To apply for a grant, the business or organisation must be looking to lease or rent currently vacant commercial premises located within Bristol city centre or one of the 47 high streets.

Consideration will be given to properties located just outside these areas – as long as they are in very close proximity to them.

Applicants can check whether a property is within the boundary of the city centre or the high streets covered by the scheme.

The grant can be used to cover a wide range of activity from building works, improvements and modifications to new equipment, shop fittings and display units.

Applicants will be encouraged to demonstrate how their business will benefit the high street and Bristol citizens.

This includes adding diversity to the area, employing local people or people from under-represented groups and adopting the real Living Wage – as well as improving disabled access and facilities and demonstrating a clear commitment to sustainability through choice of materials, transport and energy. 

For further information and to apply visit the council’s Vacant Commercial Property Grant page 

The council will be holding a series of webinars to talk through the vacant commercial property grant scheme. Visit the webpage or sign up to the business newsletter to find dates.