Clegg seeks to turn eyesore empty buildings into tech homes

Deputy PM Nick Clegg
Deputy PM Nick Clegg
Have your say

NICK CLEGG is to consider a wider rollout of tax incentives to bring back into use eyesore empty buildings across the North.

The deputy prime minister has said he wants to see the North follow the German example and find ways of handing over unused factories, office blocks or even iconic but empty city buildings to small start-up firms.

In Berlin businesses have seen a creative district set up using derelict land and property, unused land Mr Clegg says the north has more than enough of.

He has asked a task force to consider how little used incentives for similar schemes in the UK could be expanded to see a new era for hundreds of unloved buildings.

Such a move though may well mean offering further tax incentives such as reduced business rates to rich landowning companies that have already failed to develop their assets.

In Sheffield alone the move would see a new future for buildings in the Castlegate area and the new retail quarter of the city centre.

Speaking from Berlin, the Liberal Democrat leader said: “We have a vision for what we could do with lower rental costs for sometimes just some desk space, and that is where we have a huge in-built advantage in the north over the south.

“We can compete with techcity in Shoreditch on cost easily, but the bigger challenge is that companies went to Berlin because there were more like-minded firms involved.

“That is where at the moment places such as London steal a march on our northern cities, they have that high concentration of tech firms.

“So it is crucial not just to unblock the use of these buildings, but learn to market the North as a cool place to congregate.”

The building plan is the latest to come out of the deputy prime minister’s Northern Futures summit held to see how best to boost the UK economy outside of London and the south.

Mr Clegg’s devolution bid is one of several party offers to the north to have emerged in recent months, with the Conservative’s Northern Powerhouse scheme promising new city powers and high speed railways.

And Labour last night set out a commitment to blocking metro mayors where they are not wanted alongside a promise to move more civil servant jobs out of Whitehall in a new era of devolution.

In Sheffield council leaders have insisted they are already targeting unused buildings.

Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development at Sheffield City Council, said: “While we welcome Nick Clegg’s announcement today, what he is saying is nothing new.”This ‘meanwhile use’, using empty buildings before they undergo long-term redevelopment, is a key part of our ongoing strategy to transform the city centre.”

He added: “We would welcome a dialogue with Government to see if there is any practical role they can play to help remove any potential blockages, instead of just talking about it.”