From The Murky Depths

Housing and Development in London

Deptford, Housing

Shop to home conversion proposed in yet another new build block

Many new-build developments in recent years have seen commercial space and planned shop units lie empty for years after completion. The phenomenon is widespread across London and seen in many parts of the capital.

What normally happens after a few years is the developer then submits plans to convert commercial space to residential. And now there’s another example in Deptford as empty space on Creek Road sees an application to convert into 10 flats.

Most units are empty

The block in question this time was constructed almost 10 years ago. The commercial units are set back and on a separate level to the street on a raised platform. This means units would miss some passing footfall.

Courtesy google

Is there no demand for new build commercial units or are rents too high? It’s normally a bit of both. There’s no doubt though that spaces that should be at the heart of new developments and bring residents together are not being used as such.

It’s enlightening to visit many bustling continental cities and witnessing the many functioning and varied commercial units at the base of flats, and not only in the centre of town.

You can’t move in many Madrid or Barcelona streets, to give two examples, without seeing many family owned cafes and independent shops. They serve as crucial meeting places for local residents.

I always fear increasing rents will kill off these places which bring so much life and enjoyment to those great cities, and many others. Many commercial spaces in the London would be occupied, and offer greater choice, if rents and rates weren’t so expensive. And cheaper rents and rates would mean lower costs too of course increasing the chances of places surviving.

Creek Road is far from the only example in the locality. Other failures to let commercial space in the immediate area include New Capital Quay, as covered here, and River Gardens.

River facing units

Maybe one day more legal protection will be offered to these kinds of spaces and stricter rules on ensuring affordable rent for retail units when planning approval is given. Until then expect many more to lie empty for years.

The planning reference is 18/0876/F

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8 Comments

  1. Thanks for the piece. I think there’s also a factor with these large new-build units that any new startup business would have to do a complete interior fitout themselves. Having set up and run a bakery/cafe in Berlin a few years back, I know how expensive this can be, especially for gastronomy.
    The truth is – as you say – that the developers just aren’t that interested, because leaving them empty until they can become apartments is just always the most profitable thing.

  2. Green

    They shouldn’t ever let them convert to residential use, they should be offered free for community/charity use until the developers find a business willing to take it on.

  3. lukas

    I think another factor in this are business rates – councils should incentivise new / independent business to set up in these areas by lowering business rates for a period of time. This way noone wins – the council gets nothing, the developer is losing money and the local community lacks services

  4. CDT

    I agree with Lukas business rates are a major factor when it comes to commercial premises. To encourage new businesses in to the area there should be more incentives to help new business open in these premises with on going support from the Local Authority while the businesses become established. I also agree with Green where some of the premises could be used to serve the community.

  5. anonymous201486

    The problem with many developments and intended retail use, is that they are just in the wrong place. The Creek Road example is practically Deptford with mostly poor communities and very little disposal income. I am sure that developers have higher aspirations for their units beyond ‘community use’, but time and time again shops premises sit empty or the tenants move out when it becomes uneconomic to struggle on with falling business and high overheads.

  6. CDT

    After the closure of the Lewisham Job Centre in January it is a pity a new development where the commercial units have remained empty could not have been converted in to a new Job Centre. At least to serve the Lewisham, Deptford and Greenwich post code areas. All of which have lost their original Job Centres.

  7. DERRY

    I Suspect developers have no interest in letting these out. They are worth far more to them as residential units. I enquired about acquiring space that had been empty for 3 years in a block I lived in for artist units/gallery space. Not only did I not hear back but when they applied for planning permission for residential they claimed they had had no enquiries!

  8. Anon

    Good news. The final two pictures (unit at the back of the River Gardens on banning Street) is to become a Simply Fresh grocery store. Added to The Enderby (Youngs pub), Hopstuff Tap room and Midpoint restaurant on the river front, and the new estate agents in a other one of the units on banning Street this is a great success story for new developments’ units. There are a couple still to be filled but we’ll over half are now taken

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