AN empty city centre unit will become a community space under a new government scheme.

Yesterday it was announced that Bradford was one of five cities chosen to be part of the "Open Doors" project, which will see empty units turned into public spaces for a temporary basis.

The scheme was set up to "support the changing face of the high street by welcoming community groups to make use of vacant spaces."

A unit on John Street, on the outside of the Oastler Centre, has been chosen as the first to open in Bradford.

The 930 square foot space is next to Fulton's and the shop front will be spruced up with plants, sofas and lockers.

Community groups have been invited to apply to host activities, such as book clubs or wellbeing sessions, in the space.

The scheme will last for a year and will see the Government working to match public and private landlords with community groups offering vital services from well-being classes to business support sessions.

The scheme was announced by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, and will partner with the Meanwhile Foundation - a group that finds temporary uses for empty spaces.

Other towns and cities chosen to take part in the pilot include Stoke-on-Trent, Kettering, Rochford and Slough.

The spaces are offered free of charge to individuals and organisations who would like to test their ideas, deliver projects and bring "positive social change" to the high street.

The unit, along with the entire Oastler Centre, is due to be flattened and replaced with housing in the coming years as part of a major shake up of Bradford's markets.

The partnership will help tackle social problems linked to declining high streets such as crime, unemployment and loneliness.

Mr Brokenshire said: “Our high streets are the beating heart of the places we call home and make a real difference to the wellbeing of our communities.

“This pilot is a great way to tackle some of the challenges faced by landlords and communities. It will support groups across the country and demonstrate the potential ‘meanwhile use’ of unused spaces.”

High Streets Minister Jake Berry said: “The Open Doors Scheme encourages us to be more creative when tackling the social and economic challenges faced by our communities. This pilot is just a glimpse of what we can do to revamp vacant properties on our high streets, boost more community hubs and create more spaces for people work, live and shop.”

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