Affordable Workspace in London: Just Space at Bootstrap Co.

Just Space Economy and Planning meeting on Affordable Workspace at Bootstrap Co.On Monday 27 January, Just Space Economy and Planning held their fourth bi-monthly seminar on the important issue of affordable workspace in London. Hosted by Bootstrap Company, we heard from their Chief Executive, Sara Turnbull, and Dr Jessica Ferm from the Bartlett School of Planning at UCL.

Bootstrap’s model of providing affordable workspace to social enterprises and start-ups and generating income to fund projects aimed at alleviating poverty through access to employment and entrepreneurs was of significant interest to Just Space, including for  groups looking to develop alternative plans for former industrial buildings and to protect existing affordable workspace. The lack of affordable workspace more broadly in London was affecting Bootstrap, however, as tenants found it hard to move on as they grew. The story of Bootstrap also highlighted the barriers businesses and social enterprises face in participating in planning policy development processes, due to the time involved in reading technical documents and attending meetings.

Jessica Ferm discussed how planners’ tools for protecting affordable workspace were being eroded or removed. Her research suggested new policies to deliver affordable workspace through Section 106 agreements on new developments were not sufficient to offset the loss of existing affordable workspace occurring. Discussions with the People’s Empowerment Alliance for Custom House (PEACH), Peckham Vision and Camley Street Neighbourhood Forum also highlighted that existing businesses – including small independent high street retailers, craftspeople, artists and manufacturers occupying hidden workspaces behind high streets, and distribution, storage and processing activities occurring in industrial estates in central London – were at risk from new housing-led developments and planning policies that didn’t recognise their contribution to the London economy.  Just Space and London Tenants Federation encouraged community and business groups to come together in community planning networks in order to build relationships and improve participation in planning.

The Mayor’s consultation on the Further Alterations to the London Plan also came up. Just Space was encouraged by changes to affordable workspace and high street policies, but concerned about the overall threat to employment land by the increasing focus on housing delivery, in particular in town centres and industrial land with good transport connections. Further materials and events will be organised to help community and business groups respond to the consultation; see Just Space material so far here.

A full note of the meeting is available here. You can also download Jessica Ferm’s presentationbackground note and research proposal.