Revealing the importance of London`s

Revealing the importance of London’s employment land and businesses
Description of the project:
My PhD research on affordable workspace in London (Ferm, 2011) exposed the fact that there is
much mixed use development being permitted on designated employment land in London. Some
local authorities are utilising planning policy – in particular the planning gain mechanism - to require
developers of such schemes to provide a proportion of the overall floorspace as ‘affordable
workspace’. The research showed that, in many cases, the provision of affordable workspace is used
to justify and compensate for the overall loss of employment floorspace, but the provision of such
space is targeted at a particular sector of the economy, namely creative industries and artists, and
therefore is facilitating a transition from lower-value, perhaps dirtier and noisier uses, to cleaner,
higher value ones, more compatible with housing. This transition is being supported by the National
Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which promotes a change of use from commercial to residential
“to stimulate regeneration”. It is also further fuelled by a commonly held belief that the activities on
these parcels of employment land are ‘dirty’ and ‘unproductive’, not in line with a modern economy
and not supporting London’s world city status. However, we know very little about what actually
goes on in many of these industrial areas. From the GLA’s Industrial Capacity Supplementary
Planning Guidance (SPG) published in 2012, it is clear that whereas manufacturing activity only
comprises approximately 3% of the total jobs in London today, 11% of jobs are provided through
companies located on London’s industrial estates, suggesting there are a whole host of more service
oriented and perhaps knowledge-based industries that flourish there due to lower land values (car
repair workshops, laundry companies, printing works, children’s soft play provision, music or artists
studios). Anecdotally, there are many businesses that do not fall neatly into clear categories, for
example architectural model makers, who are occupying space in London’s industrial areas as they
can no longer afford the more fashionable space they once occupied in, say, Shoreditch. The future
of all these companies is being threatened, however, by increasingly insecure leases being offered by
the local authority or other landowners, presumably keen to ensure that they can take advantage of
future redevelopment proposals coming forward for the area. Through my involvement in Just
Space’s Planning and Economy Group, it is evident that this is of real concern to local business
groups, who believe that these industrial areas are vital for local economies, local jobs, and the
provision of goods and services to support the wider London economy.
This all suggests that a substantial piece of work could, in the future, focus on exploring the nature
of London’s industrial areas, the types of businesses and their interconnectedness with the wider
London economy, their experience of obtaining and retaining space for their work, and the way in
which these estates are managed through land ownership, leasing and policy. Key emerging
questions are:
Key research question
Secondary questions
What types of businesses are occupying space on
industrial land in London? What do they do
exactly? Can they be neatly categorised as
manufacturing or service industries?
How do they support or link to the wider
economy? Do they employ local people? Do they
use local suppliers? Who and where are their
What is their experience of occupying workspace
in London? What types of threat are they facing?
How are policy and planning decisions affecting
How are businesses responding to different
types of threat? Are businesses forming local
pressure groups, taking part in Neighbourhood
Planning etc?
How will this (small) project contribute?
In anticipation of this, a smaller piece of preparatory work is proposed here which would aim to
review data and information on employment land and premises already available in London, in order
to ensure that unnecessary primary data collection is not undertaken, and to inform the
methodology chosen for the larger piece of proposed research. As a starting point, it would review:
local authority industrial land surveys and employment land studies undertaken in the last 5
existing academic research projects, such as UCL’s Adaptable Suburbs, being led by
Professor Laura Vaughan
reports prepared by consultancies (e.g. Gort Scott) and think tanks (e.g. New Economics
business surveys, data and information held by local business groups, such as Chambers of
Commerce and local activists acting in business interests
data held by GLA economics, the London Enterprise Panel (the London Local Enterprise
The aim of the review would be to:
(a) identify where data or information exists that could help us answer the research questions
identified above,
(b) organise information geographically and thematically, relating it to the research questions
(c) identify inadequacies of existing data and gaps in knowledge, where new primary research is
needed to answer the research questions.
(d) Identify an appropriate research methodology for future proposed research.
The project would be undertaken between December 2012 and July 2013