Trailblazing Islington Council project will support small businesses through genuinely affordable rents

Cllr Asima Shaikh, Islington's economic development leader

Cllr Asima Shaikh, Islington's economic development leader - Credit: Archant

A trailblazing scheme from Islington Council will give small independent businesses the chance to rent top quality workspaces at genuinely affordable prices.

In a UK first, “social value” will be written into contracts with workspace providers, who will be offered peppercorn rents in return for helping to boost local industry.

The town hall has already secured 4,000 sq metres of office and workshop space from developers through the planning process. They will become available over the next three years as buildings are finished, with the first opening in January. More will be on the way as future projects are signed off.

The Affordable Workspace Strategy is part of the council’s aim to support Islington start-ups and entrepreneurs.

The council’s leases range from 10 to 20 years, and the spaces will be managed by “carefully selected” workspace providers.

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Schemes will include education, training and employment opportunities for youngsters who have no qualifications or women returning to the workplace. Areas of high unemployment will be targeted for recruitment. Business leaders from the borough will also carry out training and networking.

Town hall business chief Cllr Asima Shaikh said: “I’m proud to be offering real, meaningful help to Islington entrepreneurs whose fledgling businesses are being suffocated or pushed out by unaffordable rents.

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“This strategy creates a fantastic opportunity for small businesses to set up in world-class business clusters.

“We are uniquely placed to get the best business brains of today working with the best of tomorrow. I’m confident this will help towards an economy that works for all, tackling Islington’s underlying poverty, disadvantage and social inequality, and make this a fairer borough.”

The scheme follows a £2million project to create spaces for micro, small and medium-sized firms in Finsbury Park, backed by Sadiq Khan.

Since 2013, 5,000 sq metres of office floor-space has been lost in Islington thanks to legislation removing the need for planning permission when converting office space into homes. The council did win an exemption for an area in the south of the borough, however.

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