In 2015 Levenshulme Market CIC received a funding and support package via Co-operatives UK as part of the Community Economic Development (CED) programme – a new initiative designed for local community groups and organisations who want to take a lead in shaping their economies for the benefit of local communities. Following stakeholder engagement meetings and with the support of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) the market team devised a research project designed to answer some critical questions about the retail environment in Levenshulme.
Informed by the findings of the research and working with the high street stakeholders and Manchester City Council we have developed a plan of activity to help encourage the high street into better economic health.
The Community Economic Development (CED) plan – which gives background on the context of the research report, our reasons for carrying out this project and the outcomes we are now proposing can be downloaded by clicking here.
A brief summary of the rationale behind the project is below:
As a CIC the Levenshulme Market’s profits are allocated specifically to help develop the high street retail environment in Levenshulme.
In December 2014 the Market launched our first awards fund and in March 2015 awarded £15,000 to eight residents of Levenshulme who had applied for funds to develop retail enterprises – from pop up art hubs to market stalls and renovations for existing retailers – in Levenshulme. Through this work and the increased footfall we are bringing into the district centre in Levenshulme we are making some inroads into changing our high street for the better but we are still meeting significant challenges.
Primary amongst those is that lack of available retail space. Despite the fact that much of the retail space in Levenshulme appears unoccupied there appear to be very few on the open market to potential tenants. We receive countless emails from potential high street traders who are keen to set up in Levenshulme but cannot find any properties for sale or let.
Additionally, community perception is that there are too many fast food takeaways in the area but Manchester City Counci continue to approve change of use applications for properties which then get turned into takeaways that frequently change hands without appearing on the open market.
All of the above adds up to a complex economic picture for our high street that neither we, or – it seems – Manchester City Council, understand. We want our high street to develop and it is well placed to do so: the success of the market shows that there is a strong desire amongst residents to utilise independent retail opportunities in the area and with the fund we have been able to demonstrate a wealth of entrepreneurial talent in the area but there don’t seem to be spaces for businesses to develop on our high street – despite it being under occupied – and those businesses that do develop do not seem to be designed to serve the needs of our community.
This project seeks to understand what is going wrong and devise some steps to begin the process of enabling our high street to serve our community.
For more information about this project please contact Helen Power.