Activating High Streets Challenge

Looking for solutions that use data to activate vacant properties on high streets and support London’s recovery from COVID-19.

What is the challenge?

Create a data service that will aggregate multiple data sources related to vacant properties on high streets to enable the utilisation and occupation of empty spaces.



Town Centres and high streets across the London Borough of Ealing.

Who are the end users?

Local businesses, boroughs, business improvement districts, traders associations and organisations with an interest in activating vacant units on high streets. 

What impact are we seeking? 

  • Reduced vacancy rates contribute to high street vitality, addressing the wider impacts of vacant units including reduced footfall, reduced local pride, poor social cohesion and discouragement of further investment.
  • Increased levels of business incubation and meanwhile-use activity, creating opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises, including start-ups, entrepreneurs and local enterprises to innovate and experiment.
  • Increased diversity of uses on high streets to ensure that Ealing’s high streets adapt and diversify to fill a broader role, maximizing opportunities to secure social and community value, whilst ensuring that town centres are protected.

What will the Resilience Partner provide?

  • Access to database of existing vacant units and land ownership.
  • Access to database of council assets in town centres and high streets.
  • Opportunity to embed new data collection processes into empty property rate relief registration (in accordance with GDPR requirements).
  • Opportunity to work with a selected town centre or high street to test the impact of the tool.

What does good look like?

  • Users have actionable recommendations based on accurate and up to date data.
  • Aggregation and mapping of data from multiple sources including freeholder data held by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and open online listings, as well as new data collected through empty property business rate relief registration.
  • Analysis of this data, including actionable recommendations to facilitate the proactive and strategic activation of these units.
  • A comprehensive real-time view including ability to compare current data with historic, helping to better identify and respond to trends, and evaluate the impact of interventions.
  • Easy to use and visually accessible, ensuring that opportunities and trends can be easily identified.

Background information

  • The London Recovery Programme, chaired jointly by the Mayor of London, takes a missions-based approach to Recovery from the coronavirus crisis. The High Streets for All mission sets out the ambition to deliver exciting new uses for underused high street buildings. 
  • The London Town Centre Health Check 2017 revealed high vacancy rates in some of Ealing’s Town Centres. These long-term trends will likely be exacerbated by current economic conditions.
  • Ealing suffers from widespread deprivation and inequality, with 8 out of 23 wards ranked in the top 20% most deprived wards nationally. High levels of pre-existing deprivation and inequality have been further exposed by the pandemic.
  • Ealing is an entrepreneurial borough, with over 3,000 creative enterprises and 93% of all businesses classified as micro-sized. There is the opportunity to support these enterprises whilst reactivating vacant units to facilitate the recovery of our high streets.
  • There is no aggregated tracker or mapping of vacancies, resulting in limited opportunities to act strategically to secure better results for occupiers, landlords, high streets and neighbourhoods. 

About the Resilience Partner

This challenge is jointly presented by Ealing Council, the Ealing High Streets Taskforce, and West London Business. Ealing is the third largest London borough and one of the most diverse boroughs in the country. The Taskforce has been established to help businesses recover and rebuild thriving high streets for the future, including representation from businesses, trade associations and the three Business Improvement Districts, with a focus on collaboration, innovation and strategic thinking.