Workspace that Works: Deptford

Compared to other boroughs, LB Lewisham has high proportions of students, creative micro-businesses (75% home-based) and residents with qualifications. The council wants to support new workspaces throughout the borough that cater for flexibility and collaboration, which could encourage Lewisham’s highly skilled residents to create economic opportunities locally.

At the same time, LB Lewisham is implementing its masterplan for the regeneration of Deptford town centre, bringing new housing and community amenities. Deptford’s regeneration provides opportunities to bring the two goals together.

On 19 July, Future of London led a field trip to Deptford workspaces as part of our Workspace that Works programme.


Deptford Market Yard

Located in the Deptford station forecourt, Deptford Market Yard is largely surrounded by Grade II listed railway structures, including a unique carriage ramp originally used to move train carriages between the above-grade tracks and ground-level storage. In 2007, U+I (then Cathedral Group) secured a development agreement with Lewisham Council to revitalise the area. Upon completion, Deptford Market Yard will provide 132 homes, two restaurants, 14 workspaces within railway arches and a street market.

Roger Holdsworth from PTE and Henrietta Nowne from U+I explained that because the railway arches are listed, occupiers won’t be able to make structural changes. For the fit-out, U+I opted for brickwork repair and minimal but functional utilities, respecting the listed status while ensuring the workspaces are suitable and flexible. A few arches were knocked through to link to neighbouring residential areas. Along with new footway surfacing and landscaping throughout the Yard, this will create an accessible and welcoming public realm.

The 14 arch units were advertised last year and filled quickly after receiving 135 inquiries. As part of the application process, U+I helped prospective tenants with finding funding, business planning and financial assistance for legal advice on leases. Tenants take on two-year leases with stepped, below-market rents. When the Yard opens in late 2016, occupiers will include a cheese deli, tapas bar, cocktail bar, florist, hairdresser and illustrator.

Deptford Market Yard
Carriage ramp refurbishment and workspace arches fit-out at Deptford Market Yard


Dek Deptford

A short walk away is Deptford Lounge, a new community hub at the centre of the regeneration area. Deptford Lounge is designed around the concept of co-location, whereby the building’s assets – such as a library and rooftop sports pitch – can be used by both the community and the attached Tidemill Academy primary school.

Within the main building, Lewisham Council secured space for one of its three Deks, co-working spaces which offer free business support, mentoring, meeting space and events. Dek Deptford will provide 50m² of workspace aimed at businesses within their first few years of operation. Larger Deks in Catford and Ladywell cater to a wider range of businesses. The Deks have been funded with £1.63m from the New Homes Bonus and GLA High Street Fund.

Paul Hadfield, Lewisham’s Enterprise Development Manager, believes the council’s role in workspace is to stimulate opportunities for workspace providers and independent local businesses. Rather than operate the Deks themselves, Lewisham Councils has brought in Bow Arts and London Small Business Centre, with leases subsidised for three years. Rents for tenants vary depending on how many days per week desk space is required, but all are set at affordable levels.


Cockpit Arts

Cockpit Arts has operated workshops and maker space since 1986, when it opened in Holborn. In 2001, Cockpit Arts negotiated with Lewisham Council to take over a 1960s council property on Deptford Creek on the condition that Cockpit Arts refurbish the 25,000ft² building and create studios for at least 10 years of operation. The refurbished building provides space for around 70 tenants within roughly 40 studios. Products made at Cockpit Arts include jewellery, ceramics, furniture, musical instruments, toys and textiles, with most tenants living within five miles.

Vanessa Swann, CEO of Cockpit Arts, explained that rents are scaled up the longer a tenant has been at the site. Shared studios are an option for tenants seeking greater affordability and flexibility. Around 70% of tenants are early into their crafting careers. Each year a small number of tenants are referred to Cockpit Arts by the Prince’s Trust for their joint Creative Careers programme, which offers unemployed young people space at Cockpit Arts to start their own craft/design business as well as access to mentors. Regardless of tenure, tenants can access business support such as loans, workshops, seminars and coaching.

Cockpit Arts is a self-sufficient social enterprise, generating 10% of its income from fundraising and 90% from ‘social purpose trading’, which includes tenant rents, private tours, company days out and consultancy work.

Cockpit Arts studio
Lush Designs studio at Cockpit Arts


Further reading:


This programme is kindly supported by:
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