Affordable workspaces - converting unused garages to protect local small businesses
Unused and underused garages and pramsheds could be converted into genuinely affordable workspace under Hackney Council proposals to tackle anti-social behaviour and support local businesses.
The proposals, due to be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on Monday 29 April, would bring spaces on six estates back into use to support small businesses and entrepreneurs facing rising rents and business rates across the borough.
Tenants and leaseholders have complained that vacant garages – which are increasing as car use falls and cannot be converted into housing due to their design and layout – attract anti-social behaviour. As part of the plans architects would work closely with local people to shape the design of the transformed spaces.
As Hackney continues to develop and change, housing and workspace have become increasingly expensive. The Council cannot control all of this change, but it will use its powers, land and buildings to provide affordable spaces that support people and businesses to stay in the area.
The new plans follow work to transform Council buildings in Hackney Wick into workspace to support businesses facing eviction from the area, as well as the construction of new commercial spaces as part of the Council’s own housing developments. Mayor Philip Glanville spent a day in Hackney Wick earlier this month to hear first-hand how businesses have been affected by rapidly rising costs and to talk about the measures the Council is bringing in to support them to stay in the area.
Local businesses in Hackney Wick told me that pressure on rents and available space as a direct result of private development has made it increasingly difficult to remain in the area. I am clear that while we welcome new people and businesses, this cannot be at the expense of existing communities and we will fight to ensure we retain the businesses and services our communities have told us they value most.
That is why we are using our powers to convert Council-owned buildings in to genuinely affordable workspace, voluntary sector community facilities and studios, as well as forcing landowners in Hackney Wick to reprovide existing workspace within new developments with rents capped at less than half of the market rate, and – with this announcement – we are doing even more using underused and vacant council property such as garages to create new facilities.
As garage and pramshed use continues to decline, we are proposing to convert these spaces in to affordable workspace for local small businesses and artists – meeting our commitments to support and protect Hackney’s small businesses and our creative and cultural sector as well as improve public spaces and community safety on estates.
These are more tangible examples of how the Council is using its powers to support a more inclusive local economy.
Although still in the early stages, the Council has informed residents who live in any affected blocks of the plans. If the proposals are approved by the Cabinet, architects will work with residents, garage users and other local residents on the designs later this year. No refurbishment work would begin on site until 2020 at the earliest.
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