Contact Us

Co-Making Is Coming To A Vacant Building Near You


Makerspaces and shared workshops will be created alongside new homes and on high streets, thanks to new planning codes and a surge in vacant shop units.

So said the designer behind a slew of co-making schemes in London and Manchester.

The introduction of the new use-class E in English planning regulation and large numbers of potential high street sites looking for new uses, enables the growth of makerspaces in a way that, until now, has been all but impossible. said Assael Managing Director Pete Ladhams.

Ladhams' team is behind co-making elements at London Square/Peabody’s 540K SF Vulcan Wharf, Stratford; Walthamstow’s Blackhorse Mill developed with Legal & General; and at the 556-unit build-to-rent scheme on the former Boddington’s Brewery site in Manchester, where the developer is Prosperity. They are also at work on an adjacent site developed by Clarion.

"Mixed-use developments like Vulcan Wharf in Pudding Mill, where we're co-locating industrial uses, including makerspaces, alongside new homes, can transform our dying high streets at the same time as celebrating our country’s unique craftsmanship,” Ladhams said.

“With many arts like photography, fashion and ceramics being inherently social and communal activities, placing these at the heart of our urban spaces will drive up some much-needed footfall."

Ladhams said that use-class E as described in the latest planning code paves the way for new, blended typologies, in which people can socialise, learn and create things together.

“It opens the possibility of diversified high streets and interesting and unexpected use pairing as a catalyst to ‘hybrid’ developments, including the co-location between residential accommodation and makerspaces to foster new enterprise," he said.

“At Vulcan Wharf we veneered the inactive façades of the industrial units with workshops, incorporating class E (B1c) makerspaces into the fringes of the development and providing clear, physical separation between industrial and residential uses through podium decks and colonnades. Our design envisages an active and ‘craft-friendly’ frontage woven together by shared amenity space, a concept that could easily be translated across to high street architecture.”


Co-making has long been identified as having growth potential, but has made relatively little progress in the UK due to planning and commercial issues. 

A report prepared as part of the London Olympic legacy in 2015 reported 89 London co-making spaces.

“Across the board, high rental and prohibitive business rates were areas of concern for most workshops interviewed," the report said. "Rents may be low, often around at £5-£8/SF, but co-making spaces have low day-to-day occupancy rates at on average 1 person per 10 square metres, hence needing to encourage high memberships and shift-based uses.”

The report added that “adapting premises and substandard building fabric, to make them safe, secure and suitable for heavy machinery, was one of the main cost challenges faced,” and added that “Low profit margins can mean compromises are made — usually on building/machinery maintenance, safety and ultimately quality of work produced.”

The report recommended that meantime-use of existing premises could be an answer, particularly for vacant high street shops.

The new vogue for coworking — and a growing number of vacant high street shops — could give co-making a boost. Traditional artisanal crafts, like industrial pottery, silversmithing, diamond cutting and scissor making, were once the lifeblood of the urban street scene.

“Their skills displayed through the shop window, the earliest form of interactive advertising, are a far cry from today’s concealment of manufacturing within the four walls of factories,” Ladhams said.

“The London Legacy Development Corporation, to whom the application at Vulcan Wharf was submitted, saw the benefit of bridging mixed uses through shared facilities like break-out spaces, which foster a greater value and respect for the arts. Completion is expected in 2024.”