Birmingham-based Wragge & Co has provided pro bono advice to make unused space in railway station buildings available to charities.
Wragges head of rail Michael Whitehouse and property senior associate Tom Barr helped to draft a template lease agreement for the Central Stations Initiative, a project designed to let redundant space in station buildings to not-for-profit groups for nominal rents.
The lease agreement, which would be a tripartite agreement between Network Rail, the relevant train operating company (TOC) and a community tenant, is designed for tenants who need long-term premises. It can last for up to 25 years, far beyond the station lease of a TOC.
Whitehouse says: "There are lots of railways station buildings that aren't used or aren't used properly, and this was a chance to turn those empty spaces into something people can use for good. It allows stations to be part of the community and to live again, and allows people who aren't lucky enough to be able to afford commercial rents a place from which to operate."
The lease agreement will initially be used for selected stations in the Midlands region, run by train operator Central Trains.
However, the initiative, which is managed by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP), a federation of more than 60 UK community rail partnerships, is a pilot project designed to be replicated outside the region. ACoRP project officer Susan Miles says: "This is a project that has never been done before and is of great benefit to all concerned. The pilot has been completed in the Midlands region,but we aim to duplicate the agreement nationwide, and we've already had interest from train operating companies, local authorities and market towns across the country."
Examples of formerly redundant station space already being put to use include Melton Mowbray's station in Leicestershire, which houses a new agency for promoting local produce; Worcester Foregate Street Station in Worcestershire, which now houses an art gallery; and Stamford Station in Lincolnshire, the new home to a free business support agency for small businesses.
The long-term nature of the lease agreements also encourages tenants to invest in the station buildings. Community sustainability charity StudentForce for Sustainability has already invested several thousand pounds in its new premises at Oakham Station in Rutland, where it has a 25-year lease.