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Thousands of empty properties going to waste in London

Thousands of empty properties and unused pieces of land across the capital are going to waste, according to a new study.

A report published today (3 October) by the think tank Centre for London says these unused spaces are waiting to be re-developed and could be transformed into popup retail parks, small community gardens and workspaces.

According to the report, 24,400 commercial properties in the capital are currently empty and 22,500 have been empty for at least six months.

And the study claims there are 2,700 hectares of unused land – the equivalent of the London Borough of Lambeth – where permission to develop has been granted, but construction has not started.

In addition, the report calls on the London mayor Sadiq Khan and the GLA to lead the way in showing how meanwhile use 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.

It also identifies ways that government can incentivise landowners, businesses and civil society to bring empty spaces back into use, for instance, reforming the 1954 Landlord and Tenant Act so businesses that are struggling can sublet their spare space more easily.

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

Meanwhile, spaces offer the 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.’

The director of regeneration at specialists U+I, Simon Hesketh, added: ‘This report reaffirms our longstanding belief that spaces throughout our cities are not being used to their full potential or adding value to the local community.

‘It’s what we endeavour to address through all of our regeneration work by baking in meanwhile as an important and value-enhancing part of the development process, not just a nice thing to do.

‘For years we have been taking derelict and unused spaces and breathing life back into the communities,’ added Mr Hesketh.

‘We do this by incubating the growth of local businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, and by creating spaces for artists to flourish, children to learn and for charities to tell their stories.

‘All the while listening to the local communities to understand their desires, wants and needs, so we can create spaces that work for the long-term benefit of the community, not just the short-lived. And all at no expense to the local community by using spaces that would otherwise be left inactive and unproductive. To us it’s not just meanwhile, it’s what we call worthwhile use, because we passionately believe that this is a valuable and essential part of any successful regeneration process.’

The report, Meanwhile, in London: making use of London’s empty spaces, is available here.

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