New £9m fund for London workspaces

Boris Johnson has launched a new fund to encourage the conversion of London garages into start-up workspaces.

The £9 million scheme will provide cash to boroughs and housing associations that wish to build offices and workshops from empty garages, with money being disbursed on a bid-for basis.

The move follows the publication of Conservative planning spokesman Steve O’Connell’s report into micro-business premises in Greater London. From Lock Up To Start Up cited high rents and unfavourable tenancy terms as major stumbling blocks for small businesses in London.

In an article for Conservative Home O’Connell said that the report called for new measures to allow housing associations to “transform disused garages into commercial space and rent them out at competitive prices to micro-businesses such as cycle mechanics, carpenters and product designers.”

Mr O’Connell said that there are “thousands” of empty garages in London. He has identified 3,275 such empty properties held by “just ten housing associations across the capital.”

The report suggests that it costs an average of £26,000 to convert a garage into a workspace. Mr O’Connell said that if councils were to rent the spaces back at £60 a week, they would make back their investment in around eight years.

It is thought that businesses will be able to seek tenancies through individual London boroughs.