Friday 2 December 2016 10:38 am

Here's how the mayor wants to improve access to office space for London's startups

Sadiq Khan wants to protect the capital's office space.

And how does he plan to do that you might well ask? Well, apparently he's rounding up a team of entrepreneurs and business leaders to appoint to the Workspace Providers Board.

They will advise on securing offices and creating new ones, such as by identifying sites for building new developments, or re-fitting empty space in existing buildings. Think of it as Changing Rooms for 2016. No word yet on whether Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen will be asked to pitch in though.

Read more: What’s yours is mine – or not: The etiquette of co-working spaces

Research published today by the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that London's "open workspaces", including incubators and co-working places, host 31,000 people and generate £1.7bn for the capital's economy. But rents in some parts of the capital have increased by up to 70 per cent since 2009 and the raft of small and medium-sized firms in London (over 800,000 of them) need something to give.

The report recommends continuing to protect office space through the planning system, while using surplus public sector assets to create new workspaces in areas of employment growth.

Sadiq Khan is writing to all London's boroughs and wants them to sign up to "a workspace pledge", which'll involve them implementing a number of measures:

  • Limiting the conversion of offices into residential space through permitted development rights
  • Ensuring new developments include non-residential space for the needs of small firms
  • Seeking funding and partnerships to create new space for startups

Read more: Sadiq Khan unveils London's first hydrogen double-decker bus

The mayor has just opened Dek Catford, part of a network of three co-working spaces across Lewisham, supported by £1.6m of mayoral funding.

"When we give Londoners with skills and talent the space they need to fulfil their potential, we pave the way for the great businesses of tomorrow," Khan said. "Whether you are an entrepreneur looking to expand your business or a creative start-up that needs more space to work, my message to you is that London is open for those with ideas and passion."

It follows an announcement that the mayor has launched a new £7m scheme to support Londoners into digital, technology and creative careers.

Michael Spooner, south east London chair at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

A lethal mix of business rates and rental increases in 2017, a decrease in commercial space due to the ill-conceived ‘Permitted Development Rights’ Policy and shortage of satisfactory space for micro businesses is making it harder to do business.

FSB is highly supportive of new workspace models, such as the Lewisham Dek, coming onto the London work scene to give a welcome boost to the supply of affordable premises.