‘Interim Use’ is the temporary use of vacant buildings or land for a socially beneficial purpose until such a time that they can be brought back into commercial use again. It makes practical use of the ‘pauses’ in property processes, giving the space over to uses that can contribute to quality of life and better places whilst the search for a commercial use is ongoing.
Empty spaces are a blight to communities, a financial drain to owners and stimulate wider civic problems. Interim use brings clear benefits to local communities through involvement, education and new facilities, and also brings benefits to developers by improving the image of a development and by providing a way of ensuring the engagement of the local community. Temporary arts and cultural events also benefit developers by helping to increase the ‘bohemian index’ of an area, attracting the creative classes and making it more desirable – thereby increasing real-estate values and consequently developer profit margins. There is now clear evidence that art and culture are significant economic drivers in London’s economy.
Despite numerous attempts to stifle our interim-use programme, Better Elephant has been working with local people, plus former and remaining residents to ensure that activities are not limited to the usual commercially orientated & developer-compliant interim uses. We have been facilitating activities including freerunning, gardening and cinema screenings.
Last year, Better Elephant gardeners decided to clean up more of the disused green spaces and invite local people to start using the space in a more creative way. Activities have now expanded to include beekeeping, the digging of a fish pond and assisting those who have sought refuge from the current housing crisis.
This year, the gardeners have been extending use of the space to other concreted areas within the site. They have acquired a number of the council’s old recycling containers which are currently being replaced, and are inviting more local residents to come and get involved. We also organise events including walks, talks and screenings – you can find out more about these from the Facebook group page or follow our twitter feed Follow @betterelephant
You can find us at the centre of the ‘Cuddington’ block of maisonettes. There are a wide range of tools and materials available on site. People of all ages are welcome to come and get involved. The Better Elephant gardeners meet every Sunday afternoon between 2pm and 5pm, and can be found either in the allotment areas, or in the exhibition space underneath the Great Maple tree on the Cuddington block of maisonettes: