FINDING temporary uses for vacant High Street buildings could help town and city centres transition into the post Covid world - a panel has been told.

Representatives from West Yorkshire councils were yesterday given an update on a project that could see new uses found for the ever increasing number of empty units in the region.

The project began before the Covid-19 pandemic, but members West Yorkshire Combined Authority's Place Panel were told that it had adapted to take into account the likely shake up of high streets caused by the pandemic and lockdown.

One example of what can be done with empty units is the Open Doors pilot scheme in Bradford. Based in a Council owned, long empty unit on John Street - the space has been turned into a temporary community hub that was open for use by numerous different groups as a town centre meeting place.

They including Bradford Transformed, a group that aims to "bring art and politics to the heart of Bradford."

Plans to re-open empty city centre building as arts hub given new boost

The one year pilot scheme ended last month.

At yesterday's meeting, members heard that similar temporary uses for prominent buildings could be a way to keep centres vibrant at a time when many shops and businesses are likely to be closing their doors permanently.

The report to the panel said: "Transitional use has now become significantly more relevant following COVID-19 and the impact that will have on vacant public and private sector property in our towns and cities. A more pro-active innovative approach will be needed to revitalise failing locations and the ‘blank canvasses’ that will appear on our high streets. Transitional use of vacant space post-Covid could be an agile method of supporting economic recovery."

Toby Hyam from Creative Space Management told the Committee: "This is not just using temporary spaces for a temporary function, it is about how we can use these temporary spaces to transition to a future uses. We can use them almost like laboratories, bring entrepreneurs and organisations in to bring some fresh thinking about how we use these places.

"It will create new initiatives to re-purpose and re-evaluate our urban centres in a practical way."

The report was focused on public sector buildings, but the meeting heard that successful projects could inspire landlords of private buildings to look at their portfolio in a new way.

Mr Hyam said another way forward would be to encourage landlords to look at how entire buildings could be used - rather than just focusing on ground floor retail space.

Amir Hussain of Bradford based Yeme Architects sits on the panel, and pointed out that it was not just retail space that was becoming empty. He said: "A lot of single use buildings, including universities and office spaces, are all coming under massive pressure. We will have to think about the future of these buildings in a more creative way."

He said it was important that building owners were linked up with people or organisations with the vision for the future, adding: "It won't happen on its own, a lot of landlords aren't know for their creativity."