Using empty spaces for arts projects

If you are hoping to use an empty building for an exhibition or cultural event, here is some information about finding a space, business rates, planning permission and licences.

1. Finding a space

If you have found a location which you would like to use, you can check if the premises are owned by the council by emailing our property manager, Robert Allred, at

If the property is privately owned, please check the Land Registry online.

If you haven't found a location, here's a list of agencies who can help:

  • Ad Hoc Property Management Ltd - offers a unique live-in and Workspace Guardians scheme to the owners of empty residential or commercial buildings
  • Location Works - works mainly with film makers, they are keen to expand their services to performing and visual artists
  • Interim Spaces - a registered charity offering low-cost space for emerging talent in business and the arts

2. Business rates

Business rates apply to the lease of all council properties.

Charity and Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) Relief may offer up to 80% relief if your if your arts organisation is a Registered Charity, and is using a property for charitable purposes. 

The council has discretion to give further relief on the remaining bill - full details are available from the business rates office.

The council also has discretion to give relief to Non-Profit Making Organisations. For more information, email

3. Licences and planning permission


Straightforward art exhibitions are not classed as regulated entertainment, so do not need a licence.

If you are neither trading nor selling food or alcohol, nor affecting the highway/pavement, you should speak to the landlord and reach an agreement.

If your event is regulated entertainment, an interactive installation, or some kind of performance, you must check that the landlord either holds a premises licence or is prepared to apply for a TEN (Temporary Event Notice).

Planning permission

If work is being sold at an art exhibition in an empty shop, pub, café, or bank, this will not require a "change of use" application.

For listed buildings or exhibitions that require change of planning use, you will have to apply for planning permission, which takes 6-8 weeks.

4. Non-conventional theatre space

The Association of British Theatre Technicians has created a guidance document for theatre produced in pop-up spaces as well as site-specific, immersive and promenade shows that are not staged in a traditional venue.

The document includes advice on choosing a venue and what to look for, as well as fire safety procedures, audience control and food and refreshments. A checklist is also provided as part of the guidance.

Last updated: 16 January 2017
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