Meanwhile use


The high street has been heavily impacted by the pandemic leading to an increase in vacant units and evidence that indicates consumer buying habits may be permanently changed. Studies and reports highlight a need to diversify the high street, moving away from a reliance on retail, in order to truly reinvent our town centres for a sustainable future. 

In Plymouth we have an opportunity, with the support of various funds and a committed partnership, to revive our city centre through the development of a creative and cultural meanwhile use programme to stimulate activity in the short-term leading to long-term change, and create a sustainable model of business start up and growth.

The Meanwhile Use Programme

Plymouth Culture is working with Plymouth City Council, the City Centre Company and Vacancy Atlas to fill vacant spaces in the city centre with cultural projects through a Meanwhile Use model.

Working with landlords, we are identifying vacant units that can be made available on a Meanwhile Use basis. The meanwhile use licence will be offered rent free for up to 6 months.

This approach provides opportunity for pop-up, experimentation and testing of ideas in a low risk way. It is an ideal way to pilot initiatives that can then be refined for a sustainable future on the high street.


Through the Meanwhile Commissions we aim to:

  • Increase footfall 
  • Rebuild customer confidence 
  • Bring new audiences to the high street 
  • Test cultural products and experiences on the high street 
  • Test new business and partnership models
  • Identify financially viable cultural products and experiences to occupy the high street 

In the long term we aim to:

  • Create a permanent cultural offer on the high street that increases footfall and dwell time 
  • Improve and expand the high street night time economy 
  • Develop new models of business and ownership to create public-private-civic-creative
  • Build pride in our city 


The Call

We called out for cultural and community organisations, creative individuals and entrepreneurs in the city to propose creative and cultural projects that deliver activities and experiences in response to the objectives listed above.

The project could be anything from a one day pop-up to a longer-term initiative lasting up to six months. We were in particular looking to support proposals that have the potential to be sustainable, test innovative ideas, and bring new audiences to the high street. Applicants were asked to demonstrate how this short-term funding will help develop a sustainable project/business.  

We were interested in projects that use retail space for different purposes and explore how the high street might be used to support different agendas. Proposals might relate to the following themes in a creative way: heritage, wellbeing, environment, community access, social enterprise, skills and jobs, education, etc. 

The meanwhile use space will be made available rent free. Successful applicants can apply for funding of up to £4,000 to support the project delivery costs including: production, staffing, insurance, marketing, evaluation, and other associated costs. Additional funding will be allocated by the project team to support the cost of rates and utilities once a unit has been identified.* 

In addition to project funding, you will be supported by a project co-ordinator from Plymouth Culture, who will oversee the programme and help connect projects with potential partners.

As a funded project you will be required to capture data that evidences the impact of the initiative and how it has contribute to the objectives. We will provide resource to create a case study about selected meanwhile use initiatives. 

*Rates will vary depending on the size and location of the premises. You may be eligible for rate discounts, for example as a charity you will receive an 80% reduction in rates. Full details of rates and utility costs will be budgeted if the project is selected and once the location is identified, and will be additional to the £4,000 support for project delivery.


Initiatives must:

  • Not have an existing high street presence.
  • Be inclusive to all communities.
  • Be able to demonstrate cash-flow ability to cover project costs over and above any meanwhile use grant.


The proposals will be evaluated and selected by a panel including members of Plymouth City Council’s Economic Development team, Plymouth Culture and external specialists from culture and business sectors. Due to the expected high numbers of application we will not be able to provide detailed feedback on unsuccessful applications. The panel’s decision is final.


Call closed – Monday 8th November 12 noon (applications are now closed)

Selected Proposals invited to development/planning meeting 

Project delivery – November 2021 – 31st March 2023


A total of £149,000 is available through the Meanwhile Use Grants. We anticipate selecting in the region of 15 initiatives across the life of the programme. You may request a maximum of £4,000 for the creative initiative and further budget will be allocated for rates, utilities and fit out once details are confirmed.  

This initiative is funded by the Historic England Heritage Action Zone Culture Programme and Interreg’s C-Care programme.