Clare Askew, Regeneration Sites Manager for Workspace at Haringey Council, spoke to the London Coworking Assembly on why the What if Everyone Could Walk to Work report is of importance in today’s society and what it will mean for the future of coworking spaces. Clare is extremely passionate about the regeneration of spaces and would like to implement her knowledge in towns to ensure that local people are able to walk to where they need to be. Walk to work, walk to school, walk to the store or walk for health reasons.
Local government and coworking spaces
According to Clare, the local government cares about delivering workspaces to its local society. However, local coworking is not a well known subject amongst local authorities, which in turn means they are not always aware of where improvements are needed and how building more local workspaces can benefit them.
This is where Clare comes into play. She can help provide a strong narrative and collaborative working practices between departments to show that creating local affordable workspace is as important as creating affordable housing or maximising commercial income to deliver more traditional Council services like social care. It is useful for everyone to understand how these different demands can be balanced and where possible connected to benefit people and the environment. “I work closely with workspace providers to ensure that I am well educated on the subject, but also so that I can ensure the best possible future and outcome for these spaces,” Clare says.
Before the 15-minute city idea had been encapsulated by political objectives and the change that Covid-19 had brought on, the main idea of walking or cycling within your local area was mainly to support local businesses and get fit. “Now, this idea is used to feed two of the government’s biggest agendas: health and climate change. It allows for less carbon emissions and increases the health of the locals, it fits perfectly within the government’s plans.”
The economic benefits of the idea are not yet seen. However, Clare raised a valid point, stating that not all sectors are fit for working within such an environment. For instance, a construction company has to be able to be called out to complete their work. “Thus, the local government of Haringey has implemented a study to see which sectors would benefit from the idea the most. The study will focus on which sectors most benefit from the local coworking spaces and how these sectors can be attracted to these spaces,” Clare informed.
What is high up on the agenda for the government is the creation of local jobs. For the government to be able to implement this, they will need funding. Which is received through government funding, council taxes and business rates. When the government is able to create more local jobs, they ensure that people are able to step out of unemployment and simultaneously solve problems such as the inability to afford health care. Which in turn offers local government support so that the cycle can continue to ensure prosperity.
Clare says that “the council is interested in creating entry level jobs, as high end jobs move to London. Though, the government is also interested in ensuring that more high end jobs are created within local areas.” The challenge they are facing is how to attract these types of jobs to local areas and how to keep them there. The idea is also not to get rid of entry level jobs as they do not want to get rid of locals, but rather keep high end jobs within the area.
The focus then lies on creating business and operating models for workspace. These models will ensure that local workspaces are aware of what affordability and accessibility means. Clare says that one example of this is to favour certain businesses when letting out a workspace, for instance a green business or a startup. The objective of these models is to also show what affordability is, how it can be implemented and to be able to put a number to what affordability means. Some businesses are important for the growth of a community but they don’t have thousands to spend on letting a workspace.
What is everyone could walk to work
The 15-minute city idea has been getting more traction since the start of the global pandemic. Yet, before that, the idea was set out to reduce carbon emission after London went into a climate emergency, and the target has been set to have the carbon emissions at net-zero by the end of 2041.
One way that Clare says emission can be reduced is by rather renovating and retrofitting old buildings than knocking them down and building new ones in their place. It is also more cost effective and not as time consuming. This means that the renovation of older buildings is the perfect solution for coworking spaces, as it allows for affordability and accessibility.
The idea of the 15-minute city is not always so accessible for more rural areas. London has a myriad of opportunities to allow locals to move around without the need of a car. This is because London has everything within walking distance, like cafés, shopping centres and even workspaces. Other areas, like Haringey, are less likely to have locals move around without the usage of a car. This means that for locals to be able to make use of the 15-minute city movement, they will have to have all of their amenities close by.
It is however prominent that these local areas’ high streets are being supported more by locals. According to Clare, social media is brilliant at promoting local businesses so that locals are aware of them and are able to support them. “We can make use of the 15-minute idea by finding out what we have in our local areas and supporting these businesses.”
It is the duty of the government to ensure that these areas are accessible, safe and navigable. Clare mentions that it is possible to use your phone’s GPS to navigate these areas, but to have it where one can navigate with clear signage and promotions is ideal. “We need to be able to have that human touch in our local areas to ensure that everyone is comfortable.”
Clare believes that over the next few years local coworking spaces will improve, as well as the usage of them. She mentions that they are looking at bettering the acoustics of these areas to ensure better meeting environments. She also believes that “big corporations will see the need for their employees to make use of local coworking spaces rather than travelling long distances to work.” A sense of locality is slowly developing within these communities and before we know it everyone is walking and cycling in their local areas as it becomes more and more attractive.
Clare will be joining the London Coworking Assembly on the 28th of July 2021 for the discussion of the report What if Everyone Could Walk to Work. You can join the event here. Make sure to tune in and have a listen to what our panellists have to say about it and how this manifesto has become a reality for many around the world.