Urban Space Management

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Urban Space Management's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Urban Space Management is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Founder Eric Reynolds
This hoarding has been in
place, depressing the area,
for 25 years
Founded in 1970, Urban Space Management is a developer
of affordable retail initiatives based in east London. Founder
Eric Reynolds specialises in working with derelict sites,
redeveloping jaded locations and conserving heritage buildings
and projects from scratch, bringing experience gained from a
career stretching over 50 years. Eric tells
The Parliamentary Review
about the ideas and philosophy behind the business’ success
and discusses his plans for the future of thesector.
The term meanwhile use refers to the short-term use of temporarily empty land and
buildings until they can be brought back into commercial use. It takes a potential
problem and turns it into an opportunity and helps keep an area vibrant. During
times of economic stress, the idea of alternative reuse for stalled sites comes to the
surface. We have been involved in meanwhile uses for nearly 45 years, but it has
recently become fashionable.
Gabriel’s Wharf started out as an interim use project but has now been a success
for 25 years, whereas parts of Broadgate are due for demolition after only 25 years.
Camden Lock Market was a seven-year stopgap that was expected to be replaced
by a Siefert-designed office block, but the meanwhile use became more valuable
and is still there. A medium-term view of our complex urban places shows that
the majority of commercial uses could be described as transitional. Even rather
specialised structures such as Covent Garden Market have over time comfortably
housed wholesale fruit and vegetables, high fashion, galleries and restaurants;
the wonderful collection of buildings at Greenwich have morphed uses from
a pensioner’s home to a naval college and now a modern university. Rows of
»Founder: Eric Reynolds
»Founded in 1970
»Based in London and New
»Services: Development of
affordable retail initiatives
»No. of employees: 30
Urban Space
Highlighting best practice
Georgian houses have become offices,
shops and even an architectural school.
Sadly, many empty or underused
sites are stuck in the perceived value
trap. Developers of an overvalued
site may be forced to seek permission
and funding for 20 storeys when
ten might be more appropriate. It is
rather upsetting for those in need
of housing or places to work to see
land indefinitely stalled because of
overvaluing. I suggest that the default
position should be to encourage use
at the earliest opportunity as quick
use of space is a better alternative to
decay. Fallow time should be recorded,
and unnecessary delay should bear
Starting sooner on developments will
bring forward economic activity and
increase social value.
The obstacles to interim use include
the risk of new opportunities arising,
difficulties in obtaining vacant sites,
obstructing long-term plans and
wasting time, but it is clear that
the decision to allow interim use
is often delayed much too long.
A perfectly viable project may be
stymied by the loss of time at the
front end. An interim use plan should
be considered before the space is
emptied. Meanwhile uses should not
be a barrier to the bigger schemes,
but instead a twin-track route
should be followed alongside the
Several of our government
regeneration agencies have taken
control of significant swathes of
land apparently without having a
meanwhile use plan in mind. To make
matters worse the agencies don’t seem
to mind that long periods of vacancy
may result. This might be acceptable
to the private sector shareholders
but is not acceptable to the taxpayer.
I suggest that a straightforward
framework could be devised to
regulate interim use, which could take
the form of a standard licence with
transparent financial terms. The key
requirement in such cases is a single
point of contact and a multipurpose
form of agreement.
Balance the risk
There is a tension between the
agendas of the two sides of the
meanwhile equation. The landowner
needs to maintain flexibility in the
time that their space can be available
and the meanwhile tenant needs
some certainty in order to justify the
expenditure of effort and resources.
If all participants sign up to dealing
openly the uncertainty may be
Trinity Buoy Wharf;
before, empty with
no activity; now a
workplace for over 500
Sadly, many
empty or
sites are stuck
in the value
manageable. Interim uses should as a
general rule aim to be self-supporting;
however, there are some worthwhile
schemes that do not, on the face
of things, make money. But where
the cost of holding the space empty
is taken into account, the use, as
opposed to non-use, often makes
economic as well as socialsense.
Meanwhile or transitional opportunity
have huge potential. Examples of delay
in the private sector include Battersea
Power Station and very large sections
of riverside land. In the docklands
area former London Docklands
Development Corporation land has
been held empty for over 30 years.
Even within the valuable 0207 phone
code area there seems to be well over
100 acres of empty land. If you apply
a low-cost approach with 50 per cent
clear for circulation and public space
and only two-storey structures with
an average of 15 years of availability
and 500 square foot per person, over
130,000-person-years space could
Opportunities also come in smaller
packages, some of which is in compact
forgotten pockets. For example, two
small sites in Camden both have been
in low-value storage misuse for over 30
years; between them they could house
20 affordable apartments or a mixture
of business and residential space. The
loss of revenue and social value due
to the 30-year mismanagement of this
asset is considerable. With the right
drive and conditions small beginnings
can be successful. There is no shortage
of creative enterprise in the UK;
however, there is a shortage of easily
available low-price and therefore low-
risk space.
Lighter, quicker, cheaper
In some cases, there is room for the
lighter, quicker and cheaper approach
as a valid alternative to a slower, more
capital and material-intensive scheme.
The growth in activity and value
across Trinity Buoy Wharf’s three-and-
a-half-acre site has been achieved
without wholesale demolition or major
capital input. Starting from a base of
zero it has grown to be a fairly busy
place. There is 90,000 square foot of
inhabited space, a third of which is
in new buildings, there are over 500
people actively engaged on site, and
the new pier is the base for the most
modern fast river transit fleet.
This evolutionary success has been
built by means of a ladder of interim
through transitional to longer-term
uses. For example, English National
Opera Company involvement started
at TBW with lorry parking; this
transitioned to workshops for stage
lighting maintenance and on up to
today where ENO has added a state-
of-the-art props-making workshop.
In contrast to the let’s get on with it
life at Trinity Buoy Wharf the 30 acres
of land that line the road between
TBW and the nearest station were
derelict and stalled awaiting the rising
of the residential led development
Starting sooner
on developments
will bring
economic activity
and increase
social value
Smithfield, held closed
and deteriorating for 20


This article was sponsored by Urban Space Management. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster