Shoreditch businesses campaign against government proposals to turn commercial premises into flats

James Governor, co-founder of Shoreditch Works, is opposed to government proposals that would remove

James Governor, co-founder of Shoreditch Works, is opposed to government proposals that would remove the need for planning permission for commercial properties to be turned into residential properties - Credit: Archant

Businesses in Shoreditch are campaigning against government proposals that will remove the need for planning permission to convert commercial premises for residential use.

They believe that it will cause irreparable damage to the flat white economy – a community of tech and creative start-ups which are beating the recession – if developers are allowed to buy commercial premises and turn them into luxury flats.

Currently, the average sales value of a residential property in Shoreditch is £1,000 per sq ft – three times the value of a commercial property which is £300 to £400 per sq ft.

Shoreditch Works, a co-working space for start-ups have been spearheading a petition to Department of Local communities and Government (DCLG) asking for Hackney to be exempt from these proposals. Hackney Council has also submitted an application to opt out.


James Governor, co-founder of Shoreditch Works, Scrutton Street, said: “We are opening another space in April. The simple fact is that had this legislation been in place, the landlord would have probably preferred to have converted the space into lucrative loft apartments.

“We are already competing for space against the likes of Google who have massive resources, but when you add to that residential companies who can make four times as much and can obviously cherry-pick properties, it makes it more difficult.

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“The legislation is to allow companies to make their own planning decisions. It’s not clear to me how this represents the community’s interests. How many developers are run by communities?”

Martijn Verburg, chief technical officer at start-up jClarity, Scrutton Street, said: “Not only does Tech City provide jobs for thousands of Londoners, it also ensures that the UK can compete with the world in the technology sector for decades to come.

“I visit Silicon Valley in the US regularly and they speak of the scene in London with growing respect. Let’s not lose the massive momentum that Tech City has made in the past five years, let’s keep Hackney vibrant for businesses and the existing residents alike.”

Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe said: “This policy could see the creative cluster being torn apart and could have a huge impact on local jobs and opportunities, as well as on the character of the area. Hackney is a borough of entrepreneurs.

The local economy is growing fast and we want to harness that growth to benefit all local people. This misguided policy could stop growth in its tracks and risk turning the borough into a dormitory village full of luxury apartments that do nothing to tackle the affordable housing crisis.”

Research by Demos, entitled A Tale of Tech City: The Future of Inner East London’s Digital Economy, found that 48,000 people in Shoreditch were employed by 3,200 employers.

A DCLG spokesman said: “This government is committed to getting brownfield land and empty buildings back into productive use. We are currently looking to make it easier to convert empty and under-used commercial space into residential use. This will provide new homes, help regenerate urban areas and boost local town centres.”

The government is currently considering whether areas can opt out of the legislation and changes would come into effect in this spring.