The Council is aiming to encourage the development and use of empty commercial buildings across the City and south Essex, by leading a project to provide zero interest loans to owners and developers.
The goal of 'No Use Empty South Essex' (NUE SE) is to turn between 10 and 15 empty buildings back into occupation across Southend, Basildon, Thurrock, Castle Point, Rochford and Brentwood.
This will be achieved by offering interest-free secured loans 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 Kent County Council, loans are available in multiples of £25,000 up to a maximum value of £175,000, with the maximum loan term being three years. The application process will open next week.
Loans will be on a first come, first served basis and can be provided as ‘top up’ funding – so if a developer cannot secure all the funding that they need from a bank they can ‘top up’ their bank funding with a loan from NUE SE.
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.”
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.
No Use Empty South Essex mirrors the award-winning No Use Empty project originating from Kent County Council, who had their successful ‘Empty Property Initiative’ in full operation for several years.
Steve Grimshaw, strategic programme manager for Kent County Council 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 £3m 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 all the very best and are pleased that a new partnership has been formed”.
The project follows securing £2.2m of Government funding from the Growing Places Fund (£1m) and the Getting Building Fund (£1.2m).
This exciting new project will begin in Southend-on-Sea and across south Essex from 19 April 2022 and will run until March 2026. Further details and information on how to apply can be found on the NUE SE web page or by emailing the team on NoUseEmpty@southend.gov.uk
For examples from Kent, please visit their website.