How meanwhile use provides positive incentive to long-term developmentBookmark this
Under Policy H4 of the draft New London Plan meanwhile use spaces are defined as temporary land or property awaiting longer-term development. In recent years, meanwhile use has been the umbrella term describing a range of pop-up galleries, cafes and shops, however, there is also opportunity to develop vacant land into meanwhile housing.
Temporary uses provide the opportunity to bring activity and life into under-utilised areas before they get permanently redeveloped and can often provide soft marketing for the future development. Interim uses add value to the city, as well as to developers and landowners, by giving spaces the opportunity to evolve and become more flexible. Where new uses emerge, perceptions of places also start to shift.
Instead of leaving sites empty for years until planning is set in motion, funding is secured, and works can finally begin, empty spaces can become the paving stone to the development process. By encouraging experimentation and by engaging the local public in the process before it even begins, temporary uses can maximise potential and provide a positive incentive to long-term development.
Meanwhile spaces can come in many shapes and sizes, to name a few: interim offices, retail, art galleries, community spaces, places for attractions and events, workshops and training, as well as interim housing and property guardianship. Probably one of the most famous examples of the lot is Boxpark, the world’s first pop-up mall, which started as a temporary site and later became an international phenomenon.
On the residential front, meanwhile use has been successfully explored in the Ladywell project, PLACE, a temporary housing scheme managed by Lewisham Council, which features co-working desks, retail units, community and events space. The site had been demolished in 2014 and left vacant while awaiting redevelopment. By using a volumetric construction method, the site was inhabited with 24 configurable homes, which became a catalyst for future regeneration in the area. The benefit of the scheme is that after 4 years on site, once permanent development is ready to commence, the 24 housing units will be relocated to another location.
Meanwhile uses, however, don’t have to be limited to short-term interventions. Looking at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, interim uses upwards of 10 years are implemented to activate pivotal parts of the park before phased residential developments get implemented on site.
Centre for London has concluded in its report ‘Meanwhile, in London’ that three surveyed high-profile meanwhile projects have enabled new mixed-use spaces to emerge, as well as generating activity in the area. Business owners feel very positive about the overall impact in the area and about the impact on their business.
Development can be difficult in some areas where regeneration is not widely embraced, and meanwhile uses soften the overall process of change. Temporary projects can aid in the mitigation of negative reactions towards regeneration schemes, while bringing positive attitudes towards the site.
In the foreseeable future, meanwhile spaces will potentially become part of the long road to meaningful development, and developers, along with local authorities, need to maximise the potential of their sites and properties, while adding short-term value with a long-term goal in sight.