Mayor announces plans to help secure London’s affordable workspace

02 December 2016

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced plans to recruit a team of entrepreneurs and business leaders to help protect London’s workshops, studios and workspaces.

The Workspace Providers Board will advise on securing workspace, including through the planning process, and creating new space, for example through identifying sites for building new developments or re-fitting empty space in existing buildings.

The Board will also advise the Mayor on wider challenges and issues around workspace, such as permitted development rights and general affordability.

Research published today by The Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that London’s open workspaces host 31,000 people and generate £1.7 billion for the capital’s economy. The report recommends continuing to protect workspace through the planning system and using surplus public sector assets to create new workspaces in areas of employment growth.

The Mayor welcomes the report's findings and will be writing to all of London’s boroughs asking them to support and help create affordable workspace in their local areas. Sadiq will ask the boroughs to signal their commitment to protecting workspace by signing up to a workspace pledge.

The pledge will ask boroughs to support the important role of workspace for start-ups, small businesses and artists in London by implementing a number of measures, including:
• Limiting the conversion of office space to residential space through permitted development rights.
• Encouraging the provision of affordable workspace through planning policy and good practice.
• Ensuring new developments include non-residential space suitable for the needs of small businesses.
• Seeking funding and partnerships to create new space for start-ups, small businesses, the creative industries and artists.

The Mayor continues to urge ministers to give London greater control of permitted development rights and business rates in his continuing drive to help small businesses

The announcement came as the Mayor opened Dek Catford, part of a network of three co-working spaces and artist studios across Lewisham supported by £1.6m of Mayoral funding - secured through £1.2m from the London Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Growth Deal and £430,000 from the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I promised to be the most pro-business Mayor London has ever seen – and now I’m delivering on that promise by protecting workspace for the use of local entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“When we give Londoners with skills and talent the space they need to fulfil their potential, we pave the way for the great businesses of tomorrow.

“Whether you are an entrepreneur looking to expand your business or a creative start-up that needs more space to work, my message to you is that London is open for those with ideas and passion.”

Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock said: “Dek Catford’s affordable studios and workspaces play an important role in fostering creativity, boosting economic growth and generating employment in our borough.

"I'm delighted that the Mayor of London has financially backed the creation of this space in Catford, as well two other similar hubs in Ladywell and Deptford.

“They are important because Lewisham borough has the second highest number of very small businesses in the UK, and many of these people are working from home. During consultations with this sector people have told us that instead of working alone, they would benefit from sharing space with other businesses so they can network, innovate and grow.

“The Deks, which are close to our borough’s three main town centres in Catford, Lewisham and Deptford, provide the perfect opportunity to meet that growing small business demand.”

Clare McNeil, IPPR Associate Director for work and families said: “Affordable workspaces are vital to sustaining London’s start-ups and creative and social enterprises. They are the lifeblood of London’s economy, with over thirty thousand people working in them, including growing numbers of London’s self-employed in need of flexible workspace.

“However in many cases rents for these workspaces are becoming unsustainable. The government’s relaxation of planning rules for office to residential conversions is also leading to a shortage of affordable workspace in some areas, as well as little in the way of affordable housing.

“Action needs to be taken if London’s rich and diverse micro businesses are not to be squeezed out. The Mayor is announcing important measures today, but central government should devolve extra powers as well to make sure these workspaces are properly nurtured.”

Michael Spooner, South East London Chair, Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The cost and availability of commercial space is a serious concern to small businesses. A lethal mix of business rates and rental increases in 2017, a decrease in commercial space due to the ill-conceived ‘Permitted Development Rights’ Policy and shortage of satisfactory space for micro businesses is making it harder to do business. FSB is highly supportive of new workspace models, such as the Lewisham DeK, coming onto the London work scene to give a welcome boost to the supply of affordable premises.”

Notes to editors

1. The application process for the Workspace Providers Board opened today (Friday 2nd December 2016) and will close on 21st December 2016.
2. The Mayor will be writing to each London borough inviting them to join him in making a pledge to support the important role of workspace for start-ups, small businesses and artists in London.
3. Dek Catford is one of a three workspaces set up in the London Borough of Lewisham. Through the London Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) the Mayor of London has supported the refurbishment and set up costs of Catford, Lewisham and Ladywell Deks with £1.2m from the LEP's £70m local authority-led ‘New Homes Bonus’ programme as part of the LEP’s Growth Deal. Initial funding of £430,000 was also provided through the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund.
4. The LEP is the local enterprise partnership for London. Chaired by the Mayor, the LEP is the body through which the Mayoralty works with London's boroughs and business to take a strategic view of the regeneration, employment and skills agenda for the capital. The LEP is responsible for overseeing the allocation of over £400m of funding to drive jobs and growth in the capital and provides strategic oversight of London’s €1.5 billion European Structural & Investment Funds programme.
5. The Institute for Public Policy Research report, which was funded by the LEP, is published here.