Occupy Croydon: How to deal and negotiate with reluctant landlords (Part 3)

By - Wednesday 13th January, 2016

Jonny Rose offers advice for anyone seeking to reclaim Croydon from the landowners

Despite the myriad benefits of setting up a pop-up that I explored in part one of the ‘Occupy Croydon’ series, it can be difficult sometimes to persuade private landlords or local councils to offer temporary leases to artists and entrepreneurs for cultural activity.

This is certainly something faced by the Norbury community group that wished to take over five empty shopfronts on London Road earlier this year. So, what can be done by enterprising and community-minded Croydonians that wish to avert the high street blight of vacant shops?

Dealing with reluctant landlords

In response to this very problem, the Department for Communities and Local Government published a guide for local town centre managers, councils and landlords setting out the advantages to working with artists and local community associations in temporarily lending or renting their properties to artists.

Highlights of this report and the practical help it offers are below.

Advantages to landlords include:

  • attracting local communities and visitors to an area, where they may use local businesses
  • maintaining town centres and high streets which have faced multiple closures as a result of the recession
  • offsetting empty property business rates as properties used for temporary activities are no longer liable for these rates
  • specimen legal documents available for landlords to speed up and cut costs on the process of lending or letting spaces temporarily

If a private landlord is unwilling to let or lend a space temporarily to artists you could approach Croydon Council and suggest that they take on a lease and sublet it to you.

This has the advantage that:

  • the landlord would not be liable for insurance
  • they would have a guarantee from the council to return the property quickly should a permanent tenant appear
  • they would also benefit from having utility and security bills covered
  • there would be no empty property rates to pay

In 2009, the DCLG also published a guide and drafts of so-called ‘meanwhile use’ leases – special leases that can be used for temporary projects while a more permanent tenant is sought. These provide standard documents to reduce or eliminate legal costs when negotiating property contracts for temporary use.

Local Development Orders allow for ‘change of use’ that would otherwise require planning permission (a much more lengthy and costly process) and these have subsequently been made much more flexible in an amendment to the Planning Act 2008. You may also want to research your local area agreements to see if your proposed project ties in with other local priorities which may help you leverage the funding or permission you require.

Whilst Croydon no longer has a town centre manager, Citizen readers from further afield will be pleased to know that their local TCM can help them to work with landlords and the council, and help to simplify the planning procedures you may require. It’s helpful to know that projects taking over a space for less than 28 days do not usually require ‘change of use’ permission from the council (where a shop space would need to be reclassified for artistic or cultural use, for example).

Yo, Croydon – the city is yours!

Earlier this year, Tom Lickley exhorted the Croydon Citizen readers to realise that “the city is yours”. I never get tired of reading that article and it’s a constant theme in my own writing that Croydon is not “just a place you lay your head… it’s up to you to make it better”.

Hopefully, part 1, part 2, and this final piece of the ‘Occupy Croydon’ series will give you the ammunition you need to make your mark on Croydon’s various high streets.

The Croydon Citizen is all about empowering Croydonians to reclaim their town. The first step is for us to reclaim our abandoned shops.

Join Croydon Tech City for its January 2016 launch at Croydon Conference Centre. Free, all welcome, to attend please register here.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Sean Creighton

    There have been developments in Norbury. The Council managed to get to speak to the section of the Co-op dealing with the future of the empty shops. It is working on a scheme to give itself a store frontage on London Rd (at the moment the entrance is in Fairview Rd. The shop fronts have been smarted up. A Council officer is continuing discussions including on the possibility of short-term uses.

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      Ah, interesting – thanks for the update, Sean! :)