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Economic decline destabilises community resilience, creating resentments which the far right can exploit. A crumbling public realm often acts as a lightning rod for anxieties about jobs or opportunities. It can form a visible emblem of loss, making it easier for those who wish to sow division to blame outsiders.


This applies whether it’s a row of shops falling into disuse, a pub closing, or an iconic retailer shutting its local branch. Now more than ever this is a ‘live issue’, thanks to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the high street.

Using Empty Spaces looks at how empty spaces can be a vehicle for challenging decline narratives and for strengthening the social fabric. ​It is primarily for those who are not experts in this field of policy, but who can see its relevance to their work and want to understand it better.

It is of particular use to two audiences: cohesion officers and community teams at local authorities, especially those in areas facing decline on the high street or a fraying public realm; and potential occupiers of empty spaces, including charities, start-ups, arts organisations and community groups.

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