Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence from the National Federation of Artists ’ Studio Providers

The National Federation of Artists’ Studio Providers (NFASP) suggests strongly that Government should strengthen the National Planning Policy Framework guidance by making explicit reference to culture and to its role as an essential component of balanced sustainable development.

Commercial leisure, sport and heritage are explicitly recognised in the draft NPPF. Culture and the broad definition of the artist including the visual arts are not.

In addition the Draft Framework makes little reference to acknowledging the role of artists’ contribution to local, regional and national culture, place making and sustainable development, nor does it as well as their role as key players in the UK’s creative and cultural economy. NFASP supports the development of sustainable and affordable studio space for artists, and has good evidence over many years of the sustained contribution which such activity makes to the improvement of neighbourhoods, towns and cities.

The provision of affordable artists’ workspace offers:

a catalyst to the regeneration and revitalisation of areas;

vitality to neighbourhoods, helping to maintain employment use in developments which would otherwise be vacant;

community benefits, where artists can be involved in local neighbourhood projects which aid social cohesion, as well as benefiting the public realm; and

a sustainable business model with extremely high levels of occupancy.

In the introduction to the Draft, the Minister for Planning Greg Clark MP states that the purpose of planning is to achieve sustainable development and that sustainable development is about change for the better. In addition he states that the natural environment is essential to our well being, that our historic environment can be better cherished, that our standards of design can be so much higher and that planning should be a creative exercise to enhance and improve the places in which we live.

The Draft identifies that key contributors to this include sport, leisure, recreation, open spaces, the natural environment and design. However, there is a worrying absence of the mention of culture, the arts, theatres, galleries, museums or libraries which surely merit acknowledgement given their well evidenced, extensive and locally valued contribution to the life and well being of communities.

Numerous studies give credence to this argument not least the House of Commons own report on funding for the arts (2011) which accepts that culture is an essential component of an improved quality of life. In addition as stated in Cultural Metropolis (2011) the London Mayor’s own strategy “Artists have contributed to the international reputation of the City Fringe and East End as an artistic centre, transforming formerly derelict buildings and playing a key role in the cultural and social regeneration of neighbourhoods.”

In NFASP’s view, experience shows that studios which are affordable to a wide range of working visual artists can be an important component of any sustainable community, whether in the inner city, within new greenfield urban extension schemes or in rural areas.

Working with a range of development and artists’ agencies, local planning authorities should take account of the needs of artists for affordable studio workspace when considering development and regeneration proposals in their areas.

Policies that allow for affordable studio space should be included in Local Development Frameworks and provisions made in Area Action Plans. Local communities should consider artists’ studio needs as they prepare Neighbourhood Development Plans.

Examples of including affordable artists’ studios in the planning mix:

Avoiding Loss of Employment on Allocated Land

Studio space can add vitality and interest to areas by occupying sites where manufacturing has declined. For example London based studio provider ACME are currently about to complete on a development developers Telford Homes a landmark mixed-use development in the London Borough of Hackney. Located on the site of the former Lesney Matchbox Toys Factory in Homerton, E9, Matchmakers Wharf comprises 49 purpose-built artists’ studio, 209 residential units which will become available for sale or as social housing and commercial space for community, office and retail use. Hackney Council fully supports the scheme which will see continued employment use on the site and complements plans to promote creative industries in the area.

Re-using Empty Premises in Town/Retail Centres

Affordable artists’ studio space can also be the chosen re-use option for vacant retail and office space in town centres. For example, ACAVA (London based) studio providers working in partnership with Essex County Council, Harlow Renaissance, Harlow Council and Harlow Town Centre Partnership have developed 23 artists studios a gallery and a community space in a former vacant office building as part of a regeneration initiative with plans to incorporate for the long term rather than the initial three year timeframe.

Building Social Capital in New Areas such as Sustainable Urban Extensions and Large Infill Sites

Affordable artists’ studios can be integral part of a mixed use scheme as in Space Studios, Arlington House development in Camden Town London. Offering residential units for homeless people, low rent flats, a doctor’s surgery, conference and business support facilities in addition to 13 affordable artists’ studios within the scheme. The scheme retains employment use on a former hostel and is in partnership with developers One Housing Group and London Borough of Camden fulfilling social economy aims.

Yorkshire Artspace have worked with The Housing Market Renewal Team in Sheffield City Council and Arts Council England, Yorkshire to deliver on the potential for affordable artist’s workspace as part of their Neighbourhood Strategy. Two schemes have resulted in the provision of 18 artists’ studios across the two developments.

Creating Synergies with the Further and Higher Education Sectors, Providing Space for those Leaving College

Another mixed use example illustrated by a development in a former tea packing factory in Bristol accommodates 70 studios for artists at affordable rents with residency spaces and a gallery subsidised by the rest of the building which houses facilities for fine art students from University of West of England other cultural and creative industries paying commercial rents.

Providing Valuable Uses for Vacant Property

Bow Arts Trust established in 1995 offers, across a broad portfolio of cultural activity, a live/work scheme pioneering the use of empty flats awaiting refurbishment in Poplar, East London. The artists are offered affordable housing rents and one third of the rent goes into a community arts fund to deliver with the help of the artists a sustainable arts project for the benefit of community.

Conclusion

We would hope that these examples of affordable artists’ studios in partnership with both the private and public sectors would give demonstrable evidence to amend the NPPF to ensure that culture is recognized as a key component in delivering sustainable development alongside that of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental balance.

September 2011

Prepared 20th December 2011