Open Workspaces: Our work with the GLA

19th Jan 2016

For the past year, CUBE founder and director Araceli Camargo has been an active and vocal member of the recently formed ‘Open Workspaces’ led and run by the Greater London Authority (GLA). The purpose of the group was to identify what’s required from the GLA to ensure that workspaces for all companies remain in London given the output they create.

Araceli has sat with many members from the workspace industry such as Jamie Hopkins, CEO of Workspace Group, to James Layfield of Central Working, and Matthew Blades, Head of Economic Development for Westminster City Council. Whilst it takes time for such a wide topic to take immediate effect the following observations are now being made by the GLA on future urban planning:

To secure a thriving and innovative London, the Mayor should:

• Invest to create and secure workspace in existing public assets and by purchasing property

Encourage agreements between boroughs and workspace providers to use existing public assets. Fund property purchase to secure affordable workspace long term.

• Promote workspace provider and housing developer partnerships for space that works

Promote agreements between developers and workspace providers with long lease terms. Commit developers to invest in, or support workspace providers to raise capital for fit-out. Encourage collaboration early in the process, so the spaces work.

• Limit permitted development for office to residential conversion

Permitted development rights allow property owners to change the use of their property without having to make a planning application. This has led to the uncontrolled loss of employment space, weakening local economies and further increasing rents.

• Increase protection for industrial and commercial buildings.

The loss of workspace is not being offset by new provision in mixed use developments. We need increased recognition of work/studio spaces and light industrial businesses, and more rigorous planning policy tests to avoid incremental loss of workspace, particularly outside designated areas.

• Ensure developers offer space for small and growing businesses, or pool CIL for new open workspaces

Make the planning policies and obligations that exist in some boroughs common practice across London, consulting with users and workspace providers to ensure spaces meet needs. Place an expectation that existing businesses will be prioritised for space in new development, and require early consultation to demonstrate genuine vacancy and prevent tactical rent-hikes.

• Extend business rate relief to open workspaces

Charities receive business rate relief. We want to extend this relief to registered open workspace providers. This will reduce running costs for providers and make space more affordable for businesses.

• Support business support services

Counteract cuts to business support services, and encourage more revenue based programmes in the collaborative environment of open workspaces. 

All members of the Group are: THECUBELondon, Workspace Group, Bow Arts Trust, Capital Enterprise, Central Working, Camden Collective, Bootstrap Company, Makerversity, Shoreditch Trust, Space Studios and Ugli of W12.