Kingston is a town much in demand when it comes to office space and innovative providers of this type of accommodation are desperately needed. The council is urging potential developers to come forward.
In their economic analysis study, consultants Nathaniel, Lichfield & Partners identified flexible ‘campus style’ schemes with small and medium-sized units as a possible solution to office space shortage.
Such a measure, geared towards start-up/early stage businesses and self-employed/sole traders, could also help retain existing businesses and those of borough’s highly-skilled resident workforce which currently commutes to central London.
The innovative approach outlined in a detailed economic analysis on the borough suggests this new, modern, adaptable workspace could take the form of a commercially-run and managed workspace-style centre. Or, it could be a more informal community or social enterprise-orientated workspace, subsidised by the public sector and offering on-site business support.
To support developers in creating the space, the recommended incentives include tax increment funding, council rent guarantees and joint ventures with developers.
Additionally, business centres or hubs, as identified in the borough’s business strategy, could also provide “pop-up shops” to showcase products and services as well as areas to meet and socialise.
The study’s authors said: “The focus for Kingston may be more about retaining existing office
employers and allowing for their expansion, rather than necessarily attracting significant numbers of new office-based firms into the borough.
“The presence of Kingston University and College (both of which have an active programme to encourage enterprise and business start-ups) provide an excellent base for supporting and accommodating indigenous business growth, while also helping to diversify Kingston’s business base.”
The Royal Borough of Kingston has also invoked planning powers to retain office space across the borough.
Under new government rules, planning permission is not required to turn office space into homes until 2019. The move is intended to feed the demand for residential units and find alternative uses for mostly empty buildings.
But the Royal Borough of Kingston says the offices being converted in the borough are not necessarily disused.
So, while residential use may be more lucrative for developers, it means Kingston is losing out on jobs.
To counter the loss, the council has implemented an article 4 direction on specific areas of concern across the borough. Coming into effect on October 1, 2015 this forces office to-residential converters to apply for permission via the full planning process in defined parts of the borough.