The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Industrial

Since 2001, over 1,000 hectares of the capital’s industrial land has been lost to non-industrial uses, according to the Greater London Authority’s London Industrial Land Supply & Economy study.


As the city struggles to cope with population growth, factories, distribution units and workshops have been replaced by myriad housing developments as well as office blocks and retail.

But the tide is turning. The policy makers overseeing London’s growth now realise that the city needs industry because of the huge demand from consumers and businesses for goods and consumables. Ensuring that these are manufactured or made in London makes sense, particularly for things that need to be fresh and delivered quickly. But so does allocating industrial land in the right location. The industrial sector includes manufacturers, makers and designers, who all provide a range of job opportunities from entry-level to highly skilled and technical roles.

Furnace believes that vibrant, productive and sustainable cities rely on an exciting mix of commercial activity, not just housing and shopping.

The latest draft version of the London Plan shows that the GLA is serious about retaining industrial space. It has strengthened the protection of industrial land so the city’s supply chain can continue to function efficiently. This offers a huge opportunity for developers and landowners with the will and imagination to collaborate and create places where industry and homes coexist. A key challenge will be to change perceptions of living alongside or above ‘industrial’ spaces.

It’s already starting to happen: SEGRO and Barrett London are redeveloping the former Nestlé factory in Hayes into a mixed-use neighbourhood.

But, if the capital is to thrive and coexistance is to be achieved, land must be used more smartly. As architects, developers and landowners become increasingly innovative, Londoners can expect to see their neighbourhoods change, making the city an even more exciting place to be.

The View from the Factory Floor

Neil Impiazzi

Partnerships Development Director, SEGRO
The role that industrial occupiers play in keeping the city productive is not always understood. There are still many people that have a rather Dickensian view of ‘industry’, or assume manufacturing is something done outside London. They need to recognise that industrial companies are part of the fabric, they create wealth and jobs. It’s a real mistake to overlook some of the fantastic industrial businesses that London has.

The more homes that are built, the greater the demand for goods, services and consumables. We need to be more innovative about how we can integrate the delivery of industry and homes so that one can service the other. It’s about the real-estate sector thinking more creatively. Architects are coming up with some great designs. The challenge is taking the designs to delivery.

Darryl Chen

Head of Urban Design at Architects Hawkins/Brown
Through my work on the research project ‘Industry in the City’, it’s become obvious that we need to intensify industrial land use. The great plus to all of this is you can retain varied workspaces in new areas of regeneration, so you get a much more mixed economy on your doorstep, which is better for the life of the neighbourhood.

My hope is for a new evolution of what London as a series of villages looks like. If it’s not embraced, then you have awkward things jarring up against each other. The role of architects and urbanists is to create good places for people to live and work.

Mark Jenkinson

Siemens City Director for London
We’re at risk of missing the boat. There are new markets: software, gaming, sensors, driverless vehicles. In the future, you’ll be able to manufacture locally, then you’re only transporting the goods locally. AI and robotics is another growing sector. Maybe you could 3D print a product locally – you don’t create any waste. You need to redesign the city in a way that supports these people and we need to react quickly.

Holly Lewis

Co-founding Partner at We Made That Architects
In recent years, the loss of manufacturing businesses in London has had much more to do with pressures on finding suitable spaces, rather than decreasing demand for products. Spaces for making have been seen as a ‘soft touch’ for making a fast buck on new housing - which has created another secret accommodation crisis for businesses.

If industrial places were better understood, better valued and more integrated into the city – I think we’d all be much less relaxed about losing them than we have been recently.

Historically, places of making and industry have been tucked into anonymous sheds, often hidden behind high streets or isolated in large industrial areas – development has never really tried to include them, only replace them with something else. We all (architects, planners, developers, the general public) need to get to grips with integrating spaces for making into the city - that needs new skills and new attitudes, but I think the tide is turning!

We Made That and Studio Egret West were co-hosts of Re-Working London, an exhibition about living with industry.

Jules Pipe

Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills
We should be discouraging any further active release of industrial land. We’ve got to look at intensifying the use of industrial land that we have. Sweat that asset.


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