Protecting and enhancing the Brixton economy: Thinkers and doers needed….

In the face of rising rents, Osborne’s winner take all society and the removal of crucial planning powers from Local Authorities, we need to do something radical to protect Brixton and its economy. Brixton Works is designed to intervene in the market to shape the economy not for highest profit but for greater social outcomes.

The Brixton we want to see is one where every business is part of the community, based here not simply because of the money it can make but because it wants to be part of Brixton. Every community should be given opportunities that reflect their needs and abilities to pay, so that Brixton looks, feels and serves Brixton. That will require controls over commercial space and some clear social principles about allocation of space – Brixton Works is the vehicle we intend to create to deliver on that promise.

By coordinating and shaping the commerical and economic space across the town centre, Brixton Works will be able to ensure that those needing a helping hand will get it, whether that is the chance to start a business or the opportunity to grow one. Making best use of space, encouraging the sharing of space, facilities and experience will generate better economic and social outcomes. Realising and growing space for business will allow us to support the growth of SME’s and start ups which will give opportunities to new entrants from people who were previously shut out, helping to tap into the huge talent and aspiration of our community. Lots is written about how to protect local economies but this is about doing something.

The Brixton economy is an interdependent system - we need to join up that system to function for all of Brixton
The Brixton economy is an interdependent system – we need to join up that system to function for all of Brixton

The Brixton Works intervention in the market is necessary to achieve this and sharing the value across the town centre will ensure it works. And by reinvesting surplus back into the economy of Brixton we can safeguard the elements which existing communities value, as well as generating further economic opportunities outside of the town centre. Whether that profit goes back into supporting existing businesses, start ups or is used to expanding the control of economic space, we can drive a different type of economy which is more long term and more social, where opportunity is extended and risk shared.

We share deeply held concerns about the future economic and social vitality of Brixton. Land values and private rents are rising too rapidly, and an extension of permitted development rights is seeing space for jobs lost to homes. These factors show no sign of abating, and along with demographic shifts, the continued squeeze is pushing the town centre to become one which works for large brands and an unbalanced economy tilted toward the night time economy. Protection against such homogenisation is needed both to ensure that start ups can enter the market, that the economy works all day long and that the economy of Brixton reflects its existing as well as its future communities.

We have established a small steering group of local businesses, the Brixton Business Improvement District, private and voluntary sector hub managers and the GLA to work through these problems and develop the model to go live next year. With early experience of cross subsidy between business and developing a positive commercial mix from POP Brixton, as well as conversations ongoing about the future of the Brixton economy and what different communities need I am confident that we can create something real which will proactively take a lead in shaping the market from within.

The Council has secured funding to undertake a feasibility study to explore options to establish Brixton Works, a vehicle to manage commercial floorspace in the town centre, to deliver affordable and flexible space and support social and economic value drivers. If your organisation is interested in supporting the development and establishment of this intervention to create a better economy then please follow the link here:

If you have comments that you want considered or want to know more then please get in touch. Once the working group is up and running we will come out and host a session for interested business or community members to broaden and deepen our thinking.

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Author: jackhopkins

Labour Councillor for Oval ward in London Borough of Lambeth, and Cabinet Member for Jobs and Growth covering economic development, regeneration, planning and entrepreneurship. (formerly Community Safety) Interested in partnerships, training and development, social mobility and Arsenal.

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