Croydon Meanwhile Use Toolkit

How can I get involved?
our map of Meanwhile Use in Croydon

What is a Meanwhile Use?

Meanwhile Use turns empty spaces and places into opportunities for communities and businesses. It is the temporary use of buildings or land for a socially beneficial purpose until they can be brought back into commercial use. Meanwhile Use enables low cost and low risk opportunities for small enterprises, businesses or community groups to have a high profile space and engage with the local community. It can bring vacant land and properties back into use and help contribute to a better physical and social environment.

This Meanwhile Use Toolkit has been designed to provide practical steps, essential resources and some key case studies for setting up a Meanwhile Use in the London Borough of Croydon. Whether you are looking to start a Meanwhile Use from scratch or if your activity is already on the ground, this toolkit provides information and inspiration on how to make your project successful.

You can explore the Toolkit by scrolling down, or using the tabs above to reach our step-by-step chapters, 'Make a Plan', 'Get into a Space' and 'Life on the Ground'.

Make a Plan


What is the aim of my project?

It is important to begin with a clear idea of what you want your Meanwhile Use to achieve. The aim might be to test new ideas, services and products without the need for a long-term commitment. You may wish to reach out to more customers by having a street presence for your online business, or to reactivate and restore a neglected space in your neighbourhood by engaging with your local community. There are many examples of successful Meanwhile Uses, we have included some case studies below in this toolkit, and you can find more examples in the links below.

Pop-up Britain, Government initiative

3 Space, Charity

Elements of Transformation


Who's involved?

You will need to consider how many people you need to run the Meanwhile Use and what their individual roles will be. Maybe you are an individual within a larger organisation running the project, or maybe you are a group of partners wanting to run a new project. It is worth having a management diagram or a map of governance for the project. It is also worth thinking about other individuals and organisations you could collaborate with to make a more varied team, and whether you need people to volunteer, or plan to pay them.

Croydon Voluntary Action, for volunteering information


How do I write a plan for my use?

Writing a business/use plan is a helpful way of operating your project to its maximum efficiency. You will need to consider how long you want your project to run for, where you would like it to be located, if you are aiming to make a profit and if so what your expectation is, and what the legacy of your Meanwhile Use is. 

If you are starting up a new business or organisation you will have to decide what your business structure is. The business structure could be a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, non-profit social enterprise, community interest company etc.

Business Plan Template (Word docx)
Croydon Business Venture
Croydon Enterprise Hub, for business plan advice

Croydon Council Economic Development Team
020 8253 7060 or


Where will my Meanwhile Use be?

Key considerations for deciding where you want to set up your Meanwhile Use are: how much space you require, who you are looking to attract and how long you want to run the project for. You could potentially use neglected areas of public space, land waiting to be developed, derelict land within estates or institutions, empty spaces such as shops, pubs, offices or even empty units within buildings. 

You will have to determine who owns the property in order to gain their permission to use the space. Speaking to people nearby is a good way to start, or you can make a Land Registry search.

There are many potential sites in Croydon, you can refer to the map on this site to see where Meanwhile Uses are already taking place in the borough. Please add suggested or potential sites to the map using the submission form.

Land Registry Search


How much will setting up the Meanwhile Use cost?

Having a financial plan is an important way to keep track of budget intentions and to keep on top of your takings and expenses. Setting up your Meanwhile Use will potentially include costs of clearing the site, material costs for adapting space with fittings and furniture.

For help with funding, try submitting your project for Croydon Council's Meanwhile Use Competition.

Meanwhile Use Competition


How much will running the Meanwhile Use cost?

Running the Meanwhile Use will potentially include costs of stock, staff, events, utility bills, wi-fi and insurance. These costs should be included in your business/ use plan and considered separately from your 'set up' costs, as they will be ongoing, not 'one-off'.


Where can I get help with funding?

Croydon Council are launching this Toolkit with a Meanwhile Use Competition with funding of up to £1200 available to successful entrants to support Meanwhile Uses in Croydon.

There are a number of national and local government grants available that you can apply for. Crowd funding has also become a popular means of finding additional financial support. Refer to the links below for more details.

Croydon Meanwhile Use Competition
Croydon Voluntary Action
National opportunity: Enterprise Fellowship
National opportunity: Crowdfunding advice platform
National opportunity: Community crowdfunding
National opportunity: Civic crowdfunding
National opportunity: HCA

Croydon Hive - Connected Croydon Live space


What is the Meanwhile Use Competition?

Croydon Council ran a Meanwhile Use Competition to offer community groups, small enterprises and businesses the chance to win financial support for setting up exciting Meanwhile Uses in the borough.

Entries to the Meanwhile Competition are now closed and the joint winners were 'Elements of Transformation' and 'Turf Projects', winning £2500 each. The joint runners up were 'Mum's the Chef' and 'Croydon Community Against Human Trafficking', winning £1000 each.


Case study

The Daughter's Project, Lewisham, London

The Daughter's Project is a good example of how a social organisation can improve its outreach through a high street presence. It was a multi-faceted campaign that aimed to engage young women and their families in discussions about key wellbeing and social issues. The Daughter's Shopfront 'The Girls House' emerged out of this initiative and held courses, events, workshops and drop-in sessions on the high-street. Girls could come and relax, talk, play games and also learn about sexual health and relationships.

The first Girls House was located in what was formerly a closed down furniture shop on Lewisham High Street. The site had been empty for three years and was offered at a reduced rent by the owner. The shop was in an unkept state and had to be renovated by volunteers. The lead agency managing the project was the Young People's Health Project (NHS Lewisham). The project received additional funding from Lewisham Primary Care Trust, Youth Services, Sexual Health Services, Sure Start Plus, Family Planning Association, Goldsmith College Turning Point and The Pfizer UK Foundation.

The shop was open between October 2009 and December 2009.  It became very popular with the local community and the final event which was organised by the young women of Lewisham attracted more than 164 girls. The success encouraged the Girls House to move into other empty shops, in Sydenham in January 2010 for 8 weeks, and then in Deptford in May for another 8 weeks. The temporary occupation of empty shops gave the organisation a high profile street presence and enabled a wide outreach. Approximately a thousand girls visited the Sydenham and Deptford shopfronts alone!

Get Into a Space


How can I get agreement to use the space I want?

In this section we have included a Meanwhile Lease that can be used for your project. When negotiating directly with the property owner or leaseholder it is important to highlight the benefits of a Meanwhile Use - it can improve security, maintain the premises, lower the running costs of the site and improve prospects for commercial re-use.

You may also need to sign an Exclusion of Tenure form with the landlord, to acknowledge that your Meanwhile Use must move from the building when the Meanwhile Lease ends.

If your proposed Meanwhile Use is classified as a different type of use from that of the existing building, you may have to apply for planning permission. If you make substantial external physical changes (such as adding external lighting or signage) you may have to apply for advertising consent. Croydon Council can provide advice on this depending on your specific situation.

Lease templates to download:
Meanwhile Use Lease (PDF)
Intermediary Meanwhile Use Lease (PDF)
Meanwhile Use Sublease (PDF)

Government Leases for Non-Commercial Occupiers
Croydon Council Planning and Regeneration


What will the space look like?

The design of the space is key in creating an impactful physical transformation that catches people's attention. You should think about how your Meanwhile Use sits within its surroundings, how to display your products/services, whether you might need new signage and whether the space needs to be flexible in its arrangement. If it is a large open stretch of land you might want to determine how much space you occupy and whether you create a temporary structure for shelter.

Depending on its condition, you might have to clean and clear the existing site and provide basic amenities. There might be local businesses or organisations you can contact who would be willing to donate time/materials/furniture/services.

Fitting out your space doesn't have to be expensive. Careful use of paint and simple displays or furniture can be very effective – consider limiting your colour palette and materials for maximum impact.

Make sure that you photograph the process of setting up the space and the end result so that you can show what you have achieved.



How will I make sure it is safe?

You will have to ensure your Meanwhile Use is a safe environment for the public, employees and volunteers. You will need to consider Health and Safety, Risk Assessments, Fire, Water, Electricity and Gas safety.

The Health and Safety Executive can provide simple advice on preparing Risk Assessments. These are simple examinations of the possible risks and what you can do to minimise them.

Risk Assessment Advice, Health and Safety Executive
Risk Assessment Advice, Health and Safety Executive PDF
Fire Safety Advice, Communities and Local Government
Croydon Council Licensing


Will I need employees?

Depending on what your use is, you may need assistance to run it. People may wish to volunteer their time to help you, or if your use is intended to make money, you will need to find employees. If you are employing people to assist with your project you are likely to need an employment contract.

For volunteering, Croydon Voluntary Action
For more information about employment


How should I promote my project?

Use a range of tactics to promote your project: printed materials, online presence and local press. 

Make sure that print and online marketing tie in with the identity and branding of your Meanwhile Use, for example using the same logo and colours. Printed material can include flyers, posters and business cards that could be distributed in local community centres, shops and even in people's letterboxes. These can be quick and cost effective to produce. 

An online presence for your Meanwhile Use is important to make sure that you reach wide audiences, connect with local groups and keep people up to date with any activities or events that you are running. Start by adding your Meanwhile Use to the map on this website using the submission form. Beyond this you might consider a dedicated website or alternatively a blog or an account on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook that are free to set up. 

Write a press release to promote your project in the local papers: The Croydon Guardian, The Croydon Citizen, The Croydon Advertiser, or even consider taking out an advert.

Croydon Voluntary Action Design & Print Services
Meanwhile Map
Using Twitter for Small Businesses

Croydon Hive - Connected Croydon Live space


Case study

Activation Projects, South End and London Road, Croydon

The South End Activation Project is a Croydon Council initiative to bring vacant commercial units in and around the town centre back into use. Between January 2014 and March 2015, the Council will be identifying vacant units in London Road and South End and pairing them with businesses that wish to take up a presence on the high street. Funding will be available to support the transformation of empty units.

The images above are just some of the vacant units in central Croydon that could be candidates for a Meanwhile Use!

Life on the Ground


How can I get more local people involved?

Having an opening event or a launch party is a great way to get the word out and show people that you have arrived. It gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself and your project to the local community. Be sure to mention your opening event in your publicity materials.

Having curated events and workshops during the period of your Meanwhile Use can also further community engagement and foster good relations.

Croydon Hive - Connected Croydon Live Space


Who can I connect with locally?

Croydon has a wide variety of local business associations and community groups that it may be useful to get in touch with about your Meanwhile Use. We have included a short list of local area contacts opposite, although you may wish to check in your local area depending on where your Meanwhile Use is situated.

Croydon Business Improvement District
South Croydon Business Assocation
Croydon Portas Town Team
Croydon Residents Groups


How do I handle the money?

Whatever the size of your business or organisation it is important to carefully keep track of finances and accounts. Depending on your use, you might have to consider how you take payments from customers and what taxes you may need to pay. The Enterprise Hub at Croydon Voluntary Action can provide locally based assistance and advice on these matters to those who need it.

Enterprise Hub


What Business Rates do I pay?

It is likely that the landlord for the property will remain liable for business rates on the location of your Meanwhile Use during your tenancy. Allowing the property to be used for Meanwhile Use may entitle the landlord to reduced business rates. For more information contact Croydon Council.

Croydon Council Business Rates


What's next for the space?

Depending on your agreement with the freeholder or landowner you will have to leave the space you have occupied in a certain condition which might mean clearing and packing up completely. 

If the project has been successful, and all parties agree, you may want to continue for an extended amount of time in which case it may be necessary to extend certain insurances, lease agreements etc.


What's next for the project?

Having a detailed evaluation of your project is really important in order to understand its future. Good book keeping will show your financial position and will enable you to determine the future potential of the service or product you provided. If your Meanwhile Use is non-profit and community based, keeping track of number of visitors and contacts made will also be an important measure of success.

The next step might be moving your Meanwhile Use to another location or adapting your product or service from the lessons you learnt that would enable it to grow in a permanent location. Alternatively your Meanwhile Use might be a one-off project that intended to create local community relations, in which case be sure to keep your documentation for reference in future projects.

Croydon Council have a number of support options for enterprises opening new premises in Croydon, including business rates relief and funding for bringing vacant properties back into use. To learn about initiatives that might be relevant to you, please contact Karen Fiagbe at Croydon Council:, (020) 8726 6000 Ext 65741020 8604 7092.

 Croydon Rate Free For a Year


Case study

Petit Miracle Interiors, Shepherds Bush, London

This project is an example of how a Meanwhile Use allowed a business to grow and establish a permanent presence. Petit Miracle Interiors is a registered charity that offers interior design training and sells 'up-cycled' items of furniture. Through a competition run by 3space in 2012, founder Elisicia Moore won £1000 funding and the use of an empty shop in Shepherds Bush. With an additional input of £500, Elisicia and a team of volunteers transformed the former sports shop into an intimate and creative space where the 'up-cycled' items of furniture were sold and credited training workshops were led.

Within a week of opening, it became clear that the project was a success. The landlords were pleased with the reinvigoration of what had been an empty shop for a long period of time and asked Petit Miracle Interiors to continue their tenancy for another six months. Petit Miracle Interiors grew and became a successful business: partnering and collaborating with different organisations such as furniture disposal companies, promoting and maintaining a blog and other social media platforms, training and working with volunteers and involving local people in workshops.

The landlords received a reduction in business rates through the occupation of an otherwise empty shop by a charity, and as such they were keen to maintain a relationship with Petit Miracle Interiors, and offered them a permanent space in West12 Shepherds Bush in 2013. With a big launch party including a visit from the Mayor of Hammersmith, Petit Miracle Interiors continues to be a success story that started off on a budget of £1500 and a Meanwhile Use for 8 days!



The Croydon Meanwhile Use Toolkit is one of a number of projects that will encourage and enable activation of Croydon’s underutilised spaces with enterprising new uses.

These activation projects are being delivered with Connected Croydon; a programme of coordinated public works to improve Croydon’s streets, squares and open spaces, and are being funded through an investment by the Mayor of London’s Regeneration Fund.

For further information, please contact Karen Fiagbe at Croydon Council:, (020) 8726 6000 Ext 65741.

Toolkit Development and Design:
We Made That with Wolfram Wiedner Studio

connected croydon
croydon mayor-of-london