JSEP and Cass Cities event – London’s industrial land: cause for concern?

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Last month The Cass in Whitechapel hosted a meeting of JSEP network members which addressed the loss of industrial land in London. Professor Mark Brearley (The Cass), formerly of the GLA, kicked off the evening with a presentation setting out ‘23 thoughts about industrial land in London’. The visually engaging presentation took the form of a series of vignettes, each sketch providing an insight into often overlooked aspects of industry in London. Dr Jessica Ferm and Edward Jones (UCL) presented highlights of their working paper on London’s industrial land, arguing that loss of industrial land is running above strategic guidelines, with real estate speculation and rampant residential land values driving redevelopment of industrial premises for ’mixed use’. They showed evidence that manufacturing is changing, but not dead; industry continues to be important for London and industrial land provides low-cost business premises to a wide variety of businesses aside from manufacturing and industry. Together, these activities provide vital support to London’s economy and residents, and contribute to London’s diversity, vibrancy and status as a World City (a copy of Jess and Ed’s working paper can be accessed here).

Roy Tindle reflected on the broad range of activities happening in industrial premises in south east London, pointing to examples of firms whose activities are often strategically important and of great value. He highlighted the self-defeating nature of London’s present development trajectory – how will high end flats, restaurants and bars get built and operate without aggregate yards, warehouses and breweries? Christian Spencer-Davies then provided a valuable insight into creative production in King’s Cross, reflecting on the progress of Camley Street Neighbourhood Forum which has brought together businesses and residents. The diversity of uses in Camley Street and their importance to London was clear from the presentation.

Members then discussed the recently released London First and McKinsey ‘Economic Development Plan’ and reflected on the inspector’s report on the Further Alterations to the London Plan. Myfanwy facilitated a productive discussion, resulting in a number of important action points – convening an ‘open’ Cass seminar on industrial land, preparing briefing documents to set out major issues around industrial land in London (both for the public and technical audiences), producing media focussed short videos and securing resources for further research. All these actions are currently being pursued by network members.

On Monday 2nd March Jess and Ed will be presenting their research on London’s industrial land at the LSE (4.45pm – 6.15pm at St Clements Building, Room STC.S75). All are welcome to attend.

A ‘long-term economic plan’ for London

Today the Mayor, with the Chancellor of the (UK) Exchequer, held a press conference at Tate Modern and announced this plan.  The full text is on a government web site here.

This ‘plan’ closely resembles the London 2035 document produced last month, prepared by McKinsey and Co for London First and presented by them to the London LEP (London Enterprise Partnership) with the addition of a long list of projects.

Neither document was based on consultation with Londoners or their organisations, but both appear to reflect the interests of big business.

Just Space will be working over the coming months to help citizens and community organisations to develop their own ideas about what should be in a London plan which would serve Londoners. Recent work by Just Space and its member groups suggests that priorities would include:

  • Raising GDP through raising wages and productivity in what are currently low-paid jobs and sectors (which would contribute to greater equality, compared with the Mayor’s emphasis on high pay sectors).
  • Diversifying the economy of London, nurturing the public and private enterprises we DO have in all sectors, not just focusing on new inward investment in a few services.
  • Maintaining and growing services and jobs in manufacturing, making and re-making of all kinds, retrofitting and greening the city’s activities – which would mean protecting land and buildings where people work in suburban London from the threat posed by the switch of land to over-priced housing.
  • Focusing housing policy on stopping the shrinkage of the social housing stock, turning that round and growing the social-rent sector; improving conditions and lowering rents in private housing.

(blog post in progress)

Alarm at loss of London industrial space

Jenny Jones who chairs the Economy Committee of the London Assembly has issued a strong critique of the Mayor’s policies (or failure to stick to policies) on protecting industrial buildings and land from the developers who would convert almost anything to housing. In her report she draws on Just Space work, on published academic work from UCL and Cass Cities.  Her report can be downloaded at https://www.london.gov.uk/media/assembly-member-press-releases/green-party/2015/02/mayor-plans-for-london-manufacturing-to-disappear-within-fifty

Meanwhile the GLA has allocated £100,000 for a study of industrial land, with this brief, to report in May/June.  URS consultants and Peter Brett & partners (formerly Roger Tym) (and perhaps others) have been shortlisted and a decision will be made soon (note added feb 19.)

City Fringe consultation

The GLA has published for consultation a draft City Fringe Opportunity Area Planning Framework.  This will become Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) when approved. Consultations close on Friday 13 February. Download documents at https://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/planning/consultations/city-fringe-opportunity-area-planning-framework  The area now covered by this “city fringe” term is much larger than in earlier usage and surprises many people.

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Inspector’s report issued #falp14

The report by the Inspector on the Further Alterations to the London Plan 2014 has been published on the  GLA website

It starts with: Non-Technical Summary

“This report concludes that the London Plan as changed by the Further Alterations provides an appropriate basis for the strategic planning of Greater London provided the suggested and further suggested changes are made and my recommendations are accepted.

The recommendations can be summarised as follows:

  •   Committing to an immediate full review of the London Plan
  •   Removing references to London Boroughs being required carry out their own assessments of objectively assessed housing need
  •   Allowing London Boroughs to set their own income criteria with regard to intermediate housing

Just Space will add comments when they are ready.

London’s Industrial Land: Cause for concern

Cedar Way Ind Estate

Members of Just Space Economy and Planning (JSEP), Jessica Ferm and Edward Jones (Bartlett School of Planning, UCL), have recently completed a working paper, London’s Industrial Land: Cause for Concern, which will be presented at the JSEP seminar on 15 January 2015 at The Cass, Aldgate [Later: the paper can now be downloaded here Ferm Jones London’s Industrial Land – working paper final ]

The starting point of the paper is a concern with the on-going loss of industrial land in London, over and above targets for ‘managed release’ set in various iterations of the London Plan, and the potential impacts of the recent Further Alterations to the London Plan, which facilitate further release of industrial land in new designated Opportunity Areas and around transport nodes, in order to accommodate London’s future housing needs. The paper provides a wide-ranging review of research – including academic studies, think-tank and consultants’ reports, employment land reviews and business surveys – and draws on further evidence and examples across London, to argue that:

  • The nature of manufacturing is changing, but is still thriving and important for London’s future growth – the loss of manufacturing in London in recent years has primarily been due to real estate speculation rather than deindustrialisation.
  • Aside from manufacturing and core industrial uses, a range of other activities and businesses occupy premises on industrial land, benefiting from its relative affordability and lack of proximity to housing.  
  • Together these activities provide vital support to London’s economy and residents, and contribute to London’s diversity, vibrancy and overall status as a World City – as London continues to grow, it will need more (not less) of these goods and services.  
  • Businesses occupying premises on industrial land are locally dependent and part of a delicate local industrial ecology, where suppliers, customers and employees rely on a network of interdependent relationships.  Disrupting this can have far reaching consequences.
  • The move away from separating industrial land towards mixed use in London’s built environment – both on ideological grounds and in response to housing need – will have negative consequences, both for the well-being of Londoners, and for London’s sustainability.

The on-going loss of London’s industrial land is therefore a cause for concern: London’s broader economy and population will suffer if the current policy trajectory is not revised. There is urgency to this. The UK Government has proposed to further deregulate the planning system to facilitate conversion of industrial land to housing without the need for planning permission.  Concern is particularly acute in London where land value differentials between industrial and residential use are likely to drive redevelopment if Permitted Development Rights are extended.

During the course of preparing this paper, JSEP has convened seminars and conferences on London’s economy, where it has become evident that the issue of London’s industrial land is of real concern to members.   These events, the email forum for the group, as well as some of the written evidence compiled by members in response to the Further Alterations to the London Plan (GLA, 2014a), have helped to frame the research questions, contribute to the evidence base and provide leads to other studies and data. The contributions of the group have been invaluable to the production of the paper, but equally it is envisaged that the paper will provide a springboard for further research activity in the group.

For further queries, ideas or comments, please contact Jessica Ferm at j.ferm@ucl.ac.uk.