Retail units in England and Wales have been converted into climate emergency centres by community groups after shifts in shopping habits or the Covid pandemic left them empty. Community hubs “for the benefit of people and planet” are springing up and revitalising moribund high streets.
Since hundreds of councils declared a climate emergency, owners of vacant premises can now cut their business rates payments to zero if they lease their property for community benefit to a not-for-profit or charitable organisation, such as a climate emergency centre (CEC).
The new sustainable centres bring much needed life to high streets, many of which were in decline even before the pandemic hit. They are run by communities themselves on a volunteer basis and offer a range of activities that focus on both addressing the climate emergency and bringing people together, such as art exhibitions, exercise classes, sustainable living workshops, bike repair facilities and vegetarian and vegan cafes.
As one volunteer in Ilford notes, “There really isn’t a downside to this. After lockdown centres like these will encourage people to come back out and feel safe on the high street again. If you have a hundred people going in and out of one of these centres that will also help the business next door.”