Arches and Lock-ups

As consumers shift away from commercialised products and towards artisanal goods, ‘maker industries’ looking for quirky spaces are increasingly in vogue. Rather inevitably then, the UK’s rail arches have gone the way of Shoreditch’s warehouses, where the gritty vernacular of the industries that previously inhabited them (mechanics, metal workers) has given way to a new breed of occupier (makers, microbrewers, nightclubs). In real estate terms, this translates to increased rents; and for Network Rail, which is marketing its portfolio of arches, it makes for a more attractive price. Displaced tenants might not like this – but that’s capitalism. In searching for new venues, however, there might be a solution. A freedom of information request last year by Property Partner revealed that of 53,640 council owned lock-up garages in London, an astonishing 41% (say 22,000) were vacant. The press leapt on the opportunity to suggest converting these into 16,000 homes. However, repurposing units to help small businesses would seem to be a more realistic and achievable ambition with benefits all round.