A HISTORIC town centre building is being transformed into a 'rent-free lab' for people to test their ideas.

Interim Spaces, a charity that converts empty commercial premises into cultural venues and workspaces, has attracted £264,000 funding to buy, renovate and activate 10 Market Place, Shepton Mallet.

As well as the "rent-free retail lab for testing ideas on the high street", there will also be a hire space for "free and affordable classes in music and the arts".

The renovation works begun in October include roof and bay window repairs and the restoration of some original features being carried out by locally-based Lime Repair Ltd.

During a careful strip-out, an original stone wall with a shuttered window was uncovered after the stud walling enclosing it was removed.

The project aims to be fully operational by next April.

For further information or to apply for either the retail unit or hire space, visit www.10marketplace.uk.

Dan Simon, director of Interim Spaces, said: “This funding enables us to rejuvenate a historic building while providing a vital platform for innovators to test new ideas.

"High streets across the UK are in desperate need of revitalisation, and initiatives that allow businesses to innovate in retail settings serves as a progressive step towards that objective.

"We are hugely grateful to our funders and the support we have received from Shepton Mallet Town Council.”

Amelia Thompson, senior programmes manager at Somerset Community Foundation, which manages Somerset Social Enterprise Fund, said: “Thanks to funding from Somerset Council and the Access Foundation’s Growth Fund, we were delighted to award Interim Spaces £120,000, which consisted of an £80,000 loan and £40,000 grant.

"We’re very excited to see how the project develops, creating new opportunities for local residents and helping the development of Shepton Mallet’s town centre.”

10 Market Place is Grade II listed and dates back to the 16th century. Its first recorded use was in 1845 as a china shop - before that it would have been a house.