Meanwhile Use

What is Meanwhile Use?

Put simply meanwhile use is a term used to describe the interim temporary use of vacant property.

Government Policy Support

In 2009 the then government released a paper called Looking After Our Town Centres which outlined the importance of empty shop revival to prevent high street decline. It makes clear that empty property contributes to economic and social decline and that vibrant interim uses of empty property can generate increased activity and footfall which will benefit surrounding businesses and urban centres as a whole.

However it is not just shops, there are plenty of offices siting vacant. Charities or voluntary groups can often use this space to deliver public benefit and help spur the regeneration of communities, and help prevent structural economic decline of urban areas. Ensuring continued use of vacant space also encourages sustainable use of existing resources – see more on how 3Space’s contribution to regeneration here.

Meanwhile Use Agreements

As part of the government policy paper funding was given to develop ‘meanwhile’ lease agreements which make it easier for the tenant and landlord to agree to short term use. The logistics of meanwhile use leases are that a tenant occupies a vacant property for an agreed short term period or until a commercial tenant is found.  The tenant does not have the right to occupy and the lease can terminated at any time (with a short notice period). The original meanwhile lease templates can be downloaded from the Communities and Local Government site here.

What Uses Are Suitable?

Given the short term nature of meanwhile use it is suited to certain types of use.  There are plenty and the sky really is the limit when it comes to temporary uses.  Perhaps the most well known is the pop up shop and the pop up gallery space. Some other examples include:

- advertising and promotional events
- office space for new start up business
- workshops and training centres
- meeting rooms
- drop in advice centres
- training facilities or trial events for sports
- creative workshops and exhibitions
- educational facilities, pop-up universities or schools, or lecture venues

Further examples of innovative uses of our empty shops can be seen on our Success Stories pages.


The Big Empty Shop Experiment by Centre for Policy & Enterprise in Creative Industries, University of Glamorgan. Location: 3Space Cardiff space. Photo by: Andy Pearsall 


Meanwhile Use and the Third Sector

The third sector is facing unprecedented cuts to funding from both central and local government.  This includes reduced grant funding, cuts to contracts for service delivery and in the longer term less funding provision for venues and facilities for charity, voluntary and community uses. Whilst the use of empty property needs to be temporary they can still be an extremely valuable tool, especially when they are available free of charge (this is part of 3Space’s offer where possible).

Alternative models for service delivery – retail units

A continuing trend in the corporate sector is to use ‘pop ups’ to communicate their brand in creative ways and to reach new audiences. Whether it is Innocent Drinks serving your 5-a day in a pop up restaurant or Hermes selling handbags in uncharacteristic surroundings of Hackney it is guaranteed to generate lots of publicity and interest.  There is no reason why the third sector cannot also use this concept to promote their activities and reach out to new donors and audiences. Fundraising is especially suited to this concept. People making donations are often unaware of what an organisation does and where their donated money goes – by filling a shop with examples of how the money will be spent or delivery of a service is an innovative way of reaching a new audience. Some other ideas include:

- For charities that give advice, organisations can use a high-footfall location to reach new audiences
- For arts-based charities – a gallery or product show
- Innovative fundraising campaigns, including installations are possible
- A local community event to raise support for a local cause
- A one-off event to thank your donors.

We have suggested a few ideas for use of the spaces, however it is really is up to your organisation to think of creative ways of using this resource. Even if you are not an organisation but have a good idea we are always interested in hearing about these so please send us an email at