This Friday dozens of recycled shipping containers on Pope’s Road will become home to local start-ups, small businesses and community organisations. Similar sites in other parts of London select traders based on who could pay most and are straight commercial propositions. We have taken a completely different approach. We wanted tenants with local roots, a commitment to the area and the ability to make a strong social contribution.
The site, which Lambeth Council has handed over without charge for the next two years, will create around 200 jobs. Crucially, 85% of the tenants are from the local area. For businesses that haven’t got a lot of money behind them, we’re levelling the playing field by providing 10 affordable units at rents 20% to 50% of the standard charge. That means the next generation of independent local entrepreneurs will be given a foot up. As such, the businesses who can pay are effectively subsidising those starting out.
Delivering jobs and employment was always our 1st priority but being able to provide social value alongside it and help support a business spirit which gives back was something we as a Council wanted to promote and encourage. Too often “giving back” is used as a fig leaf to mask bad practice by big companies. What social value means at Pop Brixton is a development that will genuinely benefit the local community – by providing Jobs, training and apprenticeships, opportunities for young entrepreneurs and ensuring that tenants ‘give something back’ by volunteering at least an hour a week to the local community.
I’d urge local people to pop down and take a look for themselves when the doors open on 29 May. They’ll see a site that has places to eat and drink, places where people make and sell jewellery, clothes and other things, a health tech hub but also spaces for training and for community organisations to share skills and ideas. The popular Impact Hub Brixton, a shared workspace with 80 hot desks for start-ups and small businesses will be moving in, as will Pop Farm – a garden and greenhouse area planted by the local community.
This is a fantastic example where the public, private and community sectors have come together to create something that will allow local businesses to flourish and provide maximum benefit to Brixton. It’s difficult to put a price on social value but we will test and develop for the lifetime of POP so we can ensure that future developments live these ideals and new businesses coming to Brixton know that there is an expectation on them to be part of the community, not just to take advantage of Brixton’s success.