James Governor's Monkchips

Why Hackney needs an exemption from proposed changes to national planning laws

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In case you missed it. I am an investor, advisor, and I guess cofounder of a coworking space called Shoreditch Works. I am still full time at RedMonk  and totally committed but I also have a local itch to scratch, and coworking is a great place to learn from developers. So on to the topic of this post.

Proposed changes to national UK planning laws are designed to make it far easier to change commercial properties into residential ones. At first glance the changes make sense in a nation of over-expensive housing… but any national policy change is likely to have unintended consequences.

“New planning measures will ensure empty and underused offices can be swiftly converted into much-needed housing to make the most use out of previously developed land.”

It’s hard to understand how a policy designed to support community and localism removes any control of planning from local authorities. One of the few powers local authorities have left after years of government centralisation is now also being removed. London boroughs are in a double bind, because they are largely exempt from new laws designed to support regional development.

In this case, the emerging Tech City cluster, building rapidly around Shoreditch, could be in jeopardy. Am I biased? Absolutely – as cofounder of a coworking space called Shoreditch Works we’re doing everything we can to support early stage startups succeed. Do I want to be competing with the London Loft Company? Hell no. But the real point here is that the reason the cluster kicked off is because we could find reasonably priced places to work. The kind of people building economic success here are not tied to the area – they chose it.

RedMonk was on the original Tech City map seven years ago because i found a place above a pub to work, and Dopplr joined us. These kind of spaces are likely to disappear pretty quickly if the loft conversion companies have carte blanche to cherry pick the best spaces to turn into expensive flats. Sterility though rarely drives economic vibrancy.

I want to make it clear that we’re not anti-housing. But we are very much about mixed use. You could say Shoreditch Works would likely to follow the Jane Jacobs model = The Death and Life of Great American Cities. That is, choose life. If Shoreditch specially and Hackney can’t support startups, then an awful lot of people will have to leave London for Berlin or Dublin.

Which means, regardless of the national merits of the changes to planning policy, we strongly believe that Hackney Council should be able to get the exemption it currently seeks. So the UK can benefit from economic growth in Tech City and Hackney at large.

There is an online petition here. But also, please help by signing this petition, deadline today, please print scane and send to: [email protected]


Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State
Department of Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
United Kingdom

Secretary of State

Changes in Permitted Development Rights – office use to residential use

My company would like to write in support of Hackney Council exemption bid for the Changes in Permitted Development Rights – commercial to residential use

I strongly believe that this legislation will have a major impact on Hackney’s business community and the local economy – sitting as it does right on the City of London’s fringe. Many of our business locations would be adversely affected by this policy as the area is coveted as a residential location. This could put our business at risk and may potentially lead to forced relocation and loss of jobs for local people in an area where unemployment is already high.

We also believe that it is important to keep a proportion of the local building stock as a business district to ensure a balanced and mixed community; something that the Department of communities and Local Government actively promotes.

We strongly urge you to agree a full exemption for Hackney to ensure that the area remains a thriving business location making an important contribution to the economic prosperity of the Country.

Yours Faithfully


  1. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) describe themselves as follows: ‘We work to move decision-making power from central government to local councils. This helps put communities in charge of planning, increases accountability and helps citizens to see how their money is being spent.’ (my emphasis)


    Revoking planning powers from local government instead puts non-planning into the hands of the highest bidder. It’s a direct contradiction of their self-stated purpose.

  2. […] About 2 years ago, I was making jokes and designed a tote bag when the government announced its Tech City program. I didn’t imagine that what would actually happen was that we would start to see the type of confused political interest that has led to proposed changes in planning laws. […]

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