SEEDS promotes temporary use and reuse of abandoned buildings and spaces

The Stimulating Enterprising Environments for Development and Sustainability (SEEDS) project, with partners from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK, drew up a charter to promote the reuse of abandoned buildings and spaces as a way to revitalise urban areas. 

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Gardening activities in the Linnéstaden neighbourhood of Gothenburg undertaken as part of the SEEDS project © South Yorkshire Forest Partnership Gardening activities in the Linnéstaden neighbourhood of Gothenburg undertaken as part of the SEEDS project © South Yorkshire Forest Partnership

" Temporary and re-use projects provide a key opportunity for positive change by helping to breathe new life and economic opportunity into run down and empty buildings and spaces. The SEEDS project was a great opportunity for these places to be better understood and supported by the work of the project and potentially sustained in the long term. From my own perspective living and working in Sheffield the benefit to the City of the SEEDS project is still very visible through the Sheffield Showcase and Re-new Sheffield projects it supported, some of which are still providing a valuable contribution to city life and the local economy today. "

Johanna Mawson, Director, South Yorkshire Forest Partnership

Across the North Sea Region vacant and derelict sites pose an increasingly urgent threat to territorial cohesion and economic competitiveness. This deters investment in declining areas, threatening parity and undermining economic equity between North Sea Regions. Reasons may include market failure, inflexible planning policies, shrinking populations or the vested interests of speculative investors who sit on land-banks of empty sites until land values rise.

The EU-funded project set up a network of project partners, temporary use practitioners and business start-ups to advocate new perspectives on reuse, undertake research and compile reports to show where policy and mind-set changes were needed. 

The network opened up discussion on re-use topics ranging from spatial planning to disciplines such as economics, finance and real estate. The resulting ideas were published in a set of eight booklets, one for each of the work packages and an overarching final report.

SEEDS examined policies on temporary use and reuse of land and buildings to identify shortcomings and to consider how policies could be adapted for new regeneration and planning strategies. This gave the partners a clear view of difficulties and possible solutions.

Pilot cases involving the reuse of abandoned spaces included allowing small businesses to rent sections of disused shops and using the windows of empty shops to teach young apprentices how to create displays and promote business development. Retail training was also provided to the new businesses. A booklet was produced documenting the experiences of the 20 temporary use pilot projects and entitled ‘Transforming Cities and Landscapes through Temporary Use’.

Catalysts for change

The project addressed economic slowdown, social exclusion, lack of employability, and restrictive and uncoordinated spatial planning policies in order to show how derelict buildings and empty spaces can become catalysts for change. It highlighted a need for policies which support skills development and that increase the likelihood of economic growth. SEEDS also sought to identify innovative short-term land-use strategies able to demonstrate the benefits of temporary use for landowners and developers.

A conceptual framework for assessing policy relating to vacant and derelict urban sites was developed. This was based on the compilation of a two-part study, several case studies and a SWOT analysis that led the partners to identify a need to alter the widely held view of temporary use as a stop-gap measure. Instead, its potential for physical, social and economic transformation should be promoted, while encouraging a consistent policy approach on all geographical levels, the project concluded.

Working groups were set up in each participating country to examine partnerships, mindsets, and innovation and transformation issues. Work was carried out to show how temporary use and reuse can plug skills gaps. This helped to highlight the need for suitable transnational land reuse policies.

Innovation, transformation and cooperation

The role of short-term innovation in long-term transformation was another theme. The pilot cases, backed by case studies, workshops, seminars, knowledge exchange and site visits, were aimed at showcasing how temporary use can renew cities by bringing people together, and supporting skills and business development and local ownership. In addition, six themed workshops were held to promote cooperation between different actors in order to develop partnerships based on trust.

This led to compilation and signing of the SEEDS Charter for Re-use, which makes recommendations for tasks to be carried out and perspectives to be promoted so as to ensure a more prominent place for temporary use and reuse within planning and development strategies. The Charter is supported by the forum which fosters partnerships between advocates of coordinated spatial planning policies. It is aimed at promoting good practice, system adaptation and new perspectives so as to make short-term reuse an accepted aspect of long-term planning and development.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “SEEDS - Stimulating Enterprising Environments for Development and Sustainability” is EUR 4 669 318, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 2 334 659 through the “North Sea Region” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.


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