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Meanwhile space

What is meanwhile use?

Meanwhile uses encourage temporary activity in vacant or under-used shops, buildings, open spaces, or land.

Spaces suitable for meanwhile use are let on a temporary basis at below-market rates to generate social value, which means economic, social or environmental benefits for the local community. They allow greater flexibility of use to tenants, so are ideal to trial new business models or locations. Some recent examples of meanwhile uses in the Borough are: a temporary community garden in Whitechapel, and a number of pop-up shops on Aberfeldy Street.

By bringing vacant or under-used spaces back into use, we aim to support the key objectives of our current Strategic Plan while supporting Covid-19 recovery.

How long can I occupy the space for?

Occupation periods for meanwhile spaces will range anywhere from 3 months to over 10 years according to the future plans for each space and the proposal agreed with each participant.

What type of spaces are available?

A variety of spaces in terms of size, location, current use and length of period offered will be advertised as they become available. Spaces offered on a short-term basis will require flexibility from the user to move in and out within the offer period whilst making their proposal work. Spaces offered on a longer-term basis will require commitment to repair and maintain the building with terms negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

How do I apply to occupy a space on a meanwhile basis?

Interested businesses and organisations should return a completed form within the application period. Applicants should be aware that meanwhile use agreements are granted on a temporary basis and should plan their business case accordingly.

Businesses will need to have all necessary permissions and insurances to operate legally and safely prior to taking on a space. Please refer to the application form for the full list of requirements.

How will users be selected?

Applicants will be shortlisted based on:

  • the suitability of the proposal for a meanwhile occupancy
  • the suitability of the proposed use for the selected space and location
  • the creation of social value opportunities
  • the organisation’s previous relevant experience and business plan, and
  • the preparation time required for the organisation to make the space fully operational.

The Council reserves the right to choose the most suitable tenant for each property and to not grant a lease if a proposal is not appropriate.


The first round of applications closed the 7 January 2022 for all former school properties. We have also now carried site visits for 64-68 Chisenhale Road. If you are interested in any of the other available properties please get in touch to attend a viewing prior to returning a completed  application Form to meanwhile@towerhamlets.gov.uk

Any other enquiries should be directed to our email, including requests to be added to the mailing list for future meanwhile space opportunities.

Where I can find more information?

What other opportunities are there to access space or start a business?