Disused spaces in Whitechapel to be transformed for businesses

01 September 2015

Ambitious plans have been launched today by Tower Hamlets Council to open up empty or underused space in Whitechapel.

The council’s Enterprising Whitechapel intiative will identify currently empty or underused buildings in Whitechapel and bring them back to productive use by providing workspace for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). This is part of the Whitechapel Vision regeneration project.

Support from the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund as well as Tower Hamlets Council willl be used to carry out works that deliver workspace to a suitable standard for temporary use by businesses and social enterprises.

These spaces will then be advertised to a range of SMEs including: workspace providers; cultural/creative industries; tech start-ups; and community and not-for-profit uses.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “Whitechapel is going to be the site of much change over the next few years. By offering up these affordable spaces to exciting new SMEs, we hope to root Whitechapel firmly on the map as a centre of entrepreneurial innovation.”

To do this, the council will be creating a Vacant Buildings Register. Landowners are invited to submit their vacant spaces via the website for reuse as flexible and affordable workspaces and to promote the revitalisation of the town centre.

Applying to the Vacant Buildings Register and leasing spaces to SMEs offers a number of benefits for landowners, including:

  • security and building protection
  • maintenance – spaces may be refurbished to an appropriate standard for temporary occupation
  • health and safety, security, and access upgrades
  • flexible lease terms.

Eligible spaces must be made available for a minimum of two years, but longer terms will be welcomed. They must also be connected to standard services (for instance electricity and plumbing).

Funding for this project has come from the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund. In February the Mayor awarded £500,000 to the council to run a number of projects in Whitechapel – one of which was to bring back empty space into use. This is being match funded by the council.

The High Street Fund is the latest in a series of programmes that support London’s High Street places to grow and improve. Building on previous funds, the High Street Fund promotes the diversification of high streets and their potential to accommodate broader uses such as productive working spaces, homes and culture.

The investment will be used to make Whitechapel a great place to do business. The funding will also be used to support local businesses and attract investment.

This all ties in with Tower Hamlets Council’s masterplan for change: Whitechapel Vision. With the opening of the new Crossrail station in 2018, the council identified Whitechapel as a huge growth opportunity waiting to happen.

The Whitechapel Vision plans were launched in March 2014. They have generated a lot of support and excitement from residents and businesses, along with strategic partners involved in the delivery of this project. Whitechapel Vision was commended at the national Planning Awards in November 2014.

Once plans have been completed, Whitechapel will have:

  • up to 3,500 new homes delivered by 2025, including a substantial number of family and affordable homes
  • 5,000 new jobs
  • a completely transformed Whitechapel Road
  • seven new public squares and open spaces
  • a rejuvenated town centre
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