Bid to boost Barnstaple office space

Grant scheme launched for work hubs pilot

A PILOT programme to help develop work space for home-based workers and micro-enterprises in Barnstaple has been launched this week with grants of up to �90,000 on offer to organisations.

Devon County Council, with part-funding from the Department for Transport, is supporting the development of a “work hub” in the town as part of a strategy to bring forward a network of high quality hubs across the county, providing support to the large number of micro-enterprises and home-based workers within Devon.

Totnes is also taking part in the trial scheme, targeted at around 85,000 home-based workers in Devon. Extensive research by the council shows demand for this type of new office space is highest in Barnstaple and Totnes.

Organisations in each town are being asked to submit proposals for a grant of up to �75,000 to fund capital costs such as internal refurbishment, furnishings or wifi hardware. They can also apply for a further revenue grant of up to �15,000 to help cover running costs as the work hub gets off the ground.

The council is also providing a comprehensive package of support for successful bids, including training and advice, business support, a marketing and branding toolkit and campaign, and an on-line booking and membership system.

Councillor Will Mumford, the council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Enterprise and Employment, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for organisations to secure financial and business support to help in the development of innovative work hubs. “We believe that work hubs should be locally owned and operated, so we’re keen to hear from organisations in the public, private or voluntary sector who believe they have what it takes to turn our vision for work hubs in Devon into a reality.

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“The focus is on supporting the conversion of space in an existing building in a town centre location, to be used as a work hub, and we want to make sure that the network is self-sustaining beyond the initial set up period.”

Work hubs make smart use of space, serving more businesses than a traditional office by allowing people to book a ‘hot desk’ closer to home as and when they need it. This offers a more flexible working pattern for people in rural areas and market towns, staggering the rush hour and providing a better work-life balance and enhancing networking opportunities.

The development grants to convert or enhance space to be used as a work hub are available to any organisation, be it public, private, charity or social enterprise. They must own the property, or have a secure lease on premises and permission from the landowner, and they must meet state aid obligations.

The process is competitive, and only one work hub will be supported in each town.

Applicants should register their intention to apply by 5pm Wednesday, November 16. The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday, January 6.

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