More than 20 buildings have been reopened as the first stage of a county-wide regeneration scheme reviving underused spaces comes to a close.

‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ was launched in February 2020 with the goal of reanimating the vast number of empty and underused units in Oxfordshire’s urban centres, while also supporting organisations in the local community in need of affordable space.

The project was awarded £1.875 million of funding from the Government’s Getting Building Fund and Makespace Oxford, a organisation specialising in temporary-use spaces, was put in charge of delivering the scheme.

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Witney Gazette: Interior shot of The Community Works by Makespace Oxford. Picture: Emily Jarrett Interior shot of The Community Works by Makespace Oxford. Picture: Emily Jarrett (Image: Emily Jarrett)

Planned in partnership with Oxford City Council, the first phase saw Makespace Oxford recruit a full team to deliver the programme, secure temporary or ‘meanwhile’ leases on spaces, and deploy the Getting Building Fund funding on properties across Oxfordshire.

Since the launch of the scheme, 24 units have been reopened, connecting 37 purpose-led organisations with affordable space and supporting more than 100 jobs.

The organisations supported include charities, artist studios, independent shops, community groups and restaurants.

Witney Gazette: Communities Advocate Dr Dianne Regisford at Blackbird Leys Community Centre. Picture: Hannah PyeCommunities Advocate Dr Dianne Regisford at Blackbird Leys Community Centre. Picture: Hannah Pye (Image: Hannah Pye)

The next stage of the project will see Makespace Oxford maintain the 24 units across the country and support the individuals and organisations which occupy them.

Among those to benefit from the scheme is entrepreneur Katie Herring, 34, who runs Tribe Zero-Waste in Faringdon.

The shop invites customers to bring their own containers to refill on essentials like lentils, rice and beans as well as washing detergents and liquid soap, all to cut pointless plastic from shopping.

Miss Herring, who grew up in Wantage and used to run Oxford's Cultivate 'veg van', has run her refills business since 2018, doing pop-up events, market stalls and home deliveries around Oxfordshire - but had always dreamed of having a bricks-and-mortar shop.

She said: "I'd always hoped to have a shop to run my business out of, but if I'd had to do it the normal way I'm not sure I ever would been able to do it. Because the costs can be so high it's an enormous gamble and you can end up in serious debt.

"This scheme is absolutely perfect for me because it lets me test the waters in a really low-risk way, and gives me a realistic amount of time to build up my customer base and find my feet."

Witney Gazette: The Community Works being opened. Picture: Makespace Oxford The Community Works being opened. Picture: Makespace Oxford (Image: Emily Jarrett)

Councillor Susan Brown, leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Oxford City Council is committed to building a fairer economy for everyone and ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ has enabled many different independent businesses and purpose-led organisations to occupy spaces they would otherwise not have access to.

“Consumer tastes are changing and people want to do much more than shop when they visit towns and cities.

“The ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ project has been a really important way of diversifying the offer in our urban centres and encouraging lots of different types of people to come out to places and spaces they may never have thought to visit before”.

Witney Gazette: Makespace Oxford Aristotle Lane Meeting Room. Picture: Makespace OxfordMakespace Oxford Aristotle Lane Meeting Room. Picture: Makespace Oxford (Image: Makespace Oxford)

Ruth Cadiot, Operations Director at Makespace Oxford, said: “We are delighted to have reached this exciting milestone in the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ programme, and are grateful to OxLEP and Oxford City Council for giving us the opportunity to challenge and reimagine the way we use and access space across our urban centres.

“We mark the end of one stage this month, but, in many ways, this is just the beginning for us at Makespace Oxford.

“We continue to open our remaining spaces across the county and now have a fantastic community of impactful, purpose-led residents that we will continue to support.”


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This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

You can get in touch with her by emailing:

Follow her on Twitter @itssophieperry

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