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Construction yet to start on 2,700 hectares of London land

Words: Laura Edgar
Vacant commercial property / iStock-158004619

Land equivalent to the size of the borough of Lambeth - 2,700 hectares - has planning permission for development but construction has yet to start on it, says a think tank.

Meanwhile, In London: Making Use of London’s Empty Spaces by the Centre for London also states that 24,400 commercial properties in the capital are currently empty – and 22,500 of them have been empty for at least six months.

There is enough vacant office space in the capital to accommodate between 160,000 and 200,000 workers, it adds.

The report notes that leaving buildings and land empty is costly in terms of security and property taxes. It considers how unused spaces that are waiting to be redeveloped could be “transformed” through ‘meanwhile uses’ including pop-up retail parks, community gardens and work spaces.

Nicolas Bosetti, research manager at Centre for London, said: “London is full of spaces, small and large, that could be given over to meanwhile uses, but are not.

"Meanwhile spaces offer opportunity to try out new activities and to make things happen in parts of the city needing greater economic vitality. They can also provide affordable space for the next generation of entrepreneurs, activists and artists.”

Meanwhile, in London… explains that existing schemes across the city are bringing “huge” benefits and social value. Such schemes offer more flexibility for spaces to evolve, offering opportunities for public engagement in the development process. Additionally, they can provide affordable space for entrepreneurs, artists and activists who are starting their careers.

Centre for London has identified three hurdles that prevent empty spaces from being used to their full potential:

  • Landowners often overestimate the risks and undervalue the benefits of giving over a site to meanwhile use.
  • The planning and licensing systems can make meanwhile projects difficult to undertake.
  • The lack of larger meanwhile use operators limits capacity to take over sites and manage meanwhile activity.

To address these issues, the report suggests that the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority (GLA) could show how meanwhile uses can deliver benefits to Londoners. It recommends that the mayor should set up a meanwhile use competition for empty sites across London, open data on empty commercial vacancies, and develop a ‘good practice code of exit’ to strengthen trust between landlord and occupier.

In addition, it says that government could incentivise landowners, businesses and civil society to bring empty spaces back into use, including reforming the 1954 landlord and tenant act so businesses that are struggling can sublet their spare space more easily.

The report, sponsored by regeneration developer U+I, can be found here.

Image credit | iStock