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Landlords And Charities Gain As Empty Shop Is Occupied

Published on: 10 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 11 Dec, 2020

By Hugh Coakley

Landlords and charities have both gained by what is expected to be the first of a number of empty shops being temporarily occupied by local art and community charities in Guildford town centre.

GU ART made a splash when its new artists’ gallery and studio opened in Swan Lane on Thursday, December 3.

GU Art just opened in Swan Lane.

Professional artist Nathalie Beauvillain Scott said: “It is an exciting artists-run space showing a diverse collection of original works of art. People will be able to engage with the artists and see them at work.”

Nathalie Beauvillain Scott, portrait and mural artist. Click on the image to enlarge.

Retired head of art at the Royal Grammar School and professional artist, Andrew Curtis, said: “The artists have built up reputations outside Guildford, nationally and internationally, and still have local connections.”

The occupation of the shop, with a flexible short-term lease, was arranged by Hammond Associates that specialises in making empty shops available to community based charities and the arts.

Hammond Operations director Jayne Smith said: “Landlords have a reduction in business rates and costs such as insurance and security and the charities can get a town centre space rent free.”

Amanda Masters.

Amanda Masters, the CEO of Experience Guildford, said: “It’s great to see the GU ART shop opening. We have been having conversations with charities such as Foodwise, Street Angels and the Climate Emergency Hub for some time now.

“We are looking for the right spaces and for landlords who want their empty shops to be occupied and looked after. We could be seeing five or six shops being occupied like this.”

Alex Bellion from commercial agents Owen Shipp, said: “It is a business rates mitigation exercise for landlords but it is also a positive move for Guildford.

“We need more independent shops in Guildford. The big portfolio holders, who previously would only look at the big chains store tenants, are now considering the smaller independent operators.”

Andrew Curtis, oils and watercolours artist.

Ms Masters spoke about the difficulties retail outlets were experiencing and said: “We have to be proactive and focus on turning the town around.

“I will be launching a property and place group in the new year with landlords, agents, councillors and planning officers to identify opportunities to improve the town. Everyone is having separate conversations. I want to bring them together.”

She also spoke about a pilot scheme being run by Experience Guildford and a Guildford-based company, Completely Retail.

Dom MIllar, CEO of the Guildford-based Completely Retail Group, the Rightmove equivalent for shops.

They plan to have a comprehensive list of the available properties in central Guildford on one website to market town centre opportunities and vacancies. They want the information to help local entrepreneurs find “the perfect premises” to start-up their retail business.

Dom Millar, the chief executive of The Completely Group, said: “It’s a buyers’ market at the moment and the majority of landlords will be more receptive than ever to work with local businesses.

“This ground-breaking pilot project for Experience Guildford is due to be launched on our website in January. It’s a first for Guildford and it will be offered to all of the UK’s 300 business improvement districts later in 2021.”

The artists exhibiting in GU ART in Swan Lane are: Rob Blackham (rock photographer), Louise Burnett (oil and acrylic landscapes), Andrew Curtis (oils and watercolours), Mandy Millyard (street photographer), Diana Pollock (pastels and prints), Nathalie Beauvillain Scott (portrait and mural artist) and Terri Smart (ceramics).

Pastels and prints artist Diana Pollock.

Street photographer Mandy Millyard.

Rock photographer Rob Blackham.

Oil and acrylic landscape artist Louise Burnett.

Ceramics by Terri Smart.

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