The FT on the Brockley enterprise hub

The FT has followed its discovery that Lewisham is the Very Small Business capital of Britain with an article today, which examines the borough's enterprise credentials. And in its search for green shoots, it headed to Brockley.

Among those offering the prime minister advice are Margaret from Magi, Ed from The Orchard and this blog's author. Those who cast doubt on Lewisham's status as a start-up haven will be glad to note that the article is nicely balanced, concluding:

With the third highest rate of public sector employment among the city’s boroughs, Lewisham is vulnerable to government cuts. Business survival rates are lower than the London average, as is the percentage of small businesses expanding their staff numbers year-on-year.

Click here for the full article.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

For Lewisham to challange the Valley it needs to change the Labour leadership we had for the last 40 year. Anything but Bullocks will do.

Their strategy has not changed much since, cheap dormitory buildings, shopping centers, and votes in exchange of benefits and free housing...

Anonymous said...

Oh dear..... Really? You actually believe that? Yes, boo to shopping centres. That makes perfect sense, they employ no one local. Presumably you read the (small) praise for rate relief for startups?

Anonymous said...

Was anyone outside of the politburo approached? Keen to see what Fishy Business thought of it.

Anonymous said...

You need to pay for access to the article Nick - any chance you can copy and paste it so we can have a read?

Brockley Nick said...

I'm not going to violate their copyright. But if you do a google news search for brockley bing you can access it via the resulting link

Captain Perspective said...

You were happy to violate The Simpsons copyright :-)

Katy said...

Brilliant to see Brockley highlighted - bravo Ed, Margaret and Nick!

kolp said...

That's amazing that Brockley is highlighted in this way. Thanks Brockley Kate!

kolp said...

Sorry I meant Nick.

nonny mouse said...

Brockley Kate is the co-author of the article (presumably she did the Brockley interviews), so I think it's OK to thank her as well as Nick!

Brockley Nick said...

James Pickford did the interviews.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised though. In London terms, wouldn't somewhere like Hackney or Tower Hamlets be the haven for small start-up businesses? We have clusters round here, but nothing compared to the number out in the fashionable east.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, as discussed on the other thread, Lewisham's place in the table is as much a product of failure as of success. It has few larger employers, so consequently rates very highly for the proportion of VSBs.

However, given this failure, it's nice that we do OK in terms of young, small companies. Some of those will grow, hopefully sticking around in the process.

michael said...

Looking at the ONS figures referred to by the FT, I can't quite make out how they arrived at their percentages. But what stands out is that although Lewisham's proportion of small business is high, the total number of businesses is abysmally low.

Lewisham has less TOTAL number of businesses than all but two inner London boroughs has just counting VSBs. In other words, while Lewisham has a total of 7,940 businesses (6,055 of them small), Lambeth has 8,705 small businesses, and 11,595 in total.

What this demonstrates the total failure of business in Lewisham. Places like Lambeth have 30% more small business and 50% more businesses than Lewisham. We have substantially less business (small or large) than any inner London borough other than Newham.

Lewisham would be better if we all recognised this disaster and try to change it, rather than trying to put a positive spin on this mess.

(Written from my office in Lambeth)

Brockley Nick said...

@Michael - I agree up to a point. But I would say highlighting the positive IS part of the way you change things.

If we wallow in despair, it makes it less likely that entrepreneurs will locate here. If we show that there are pockets of enterprise and that there are lots of good reasons to locate in the borough, it makes it more likely we'll attract start-ups.

It's about business confidence. So let's look at the positives for a change.

It's not as though we haven't heard about Lewisham's failures before and it's not as though The FT and the articles on this site haven't pointed out precisely the failings you are talking about.

Brockley Nick said...

PS - it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that other inner London boroughs have more businesses.

The others on the list include - central London business centre boroughs like:

Camden
Kensington and Chelsea
Tower Hamlets
Westminster

Then you have the boroughs that cover the South Bank commercial clusters:

Lambeth
Southwark

There's no point in complaining that peripheral Lewisham doesn't compare with any of these five boroughs. They're completely different - the commercial heart of the city.

So let's look at what's left:

Greenwich - traditional industrial centre with huge riverfront that attracts large businesses, only just does better than Lewisham

Hackney - right on the edge of the Square Mile. Home to Tech City.

Hammersmith and Fulham - a major business cluster that owes much of its success to its proximity to Heathrow. Surrounded by high-end housing, with massive spending power to attract big business.

Islington - northern edge of the Square Mile. Arguably an extension of the city centre.

Wandsworth - home to the busiest station in Britain at Clapham Junction and lots of overspill from Victoria.

So looking down this list, it's not realistic to expect Lewisham to compete with any of these.

The borough is relatively poorly connected to the city centre, does not border any major commercial centres, is divided from the nearest major centres by a wide river with few crossings and a swathe of impoverished residential land from Bermondsey to New Cross and has little river access and has not been the subject of a massive publicly-funded regeneration project like Greenwich has.

Lewisham's relatively poor performance is therefore primarily to do with its assets, location and history. The Council's strategy is of relatively trivial importance.

Anonymous said...

.... Lewisham has less businesses than the rest of London. It also has one of the highest proportion of public employees. It also has one of the largest proportion of of benefit claimers vs tax payers.


Well what a surprise, who do we have to thank in the last 40 years?

michael said...

Southwark, Wandsworth, Hackney, and Tower Hamlets have not always been major commercial centres, but all have attracted businesses, small and large.

By focusing on small businesses in tiny units, Lewisham properties provide no room for expansion into larger companies without relocation. Attracting one or two large businesses would automatically attract many small businesses.

So why is it that Lewisham still has substantially less businesses than Bromley? Have there been any large initiatives for businesses in the last 30 years?

Brockley Nick said...

Southwark has London Bridge station - a major central London hub. It has the Mayor's office. It is right opposite the City! It is central London. The riverside centre is where most of the big businesses it has are located. Not in Nunhead or Peckham. Are you seriously suggesting that Lewisham is comparable?

Tower Hamlets famously has Canary Wharf - a once in a lifetime regeneration project, driven by central government. Is it Lewisham's fault that it didn't have huge deserted docklands to regenerate?

Hackney still isn't a major commercial centre, except in those bits right next door to the most important business district in Europe - Shoreditch and Hoxton, which have come up as the traditional business districts have overflowed. Not many major employers elsewhere in the borough.

Once you get out to places like Bromley, you start to have the major corporations that locate on the city fringes for relatively low-cost rents and lots of space compared to the city centre, with good access to airports and the M25 and the sort of suburbs that appeal to regional directors of large international companies. Half my clients are based in places like Uxbridge. Again, I think that has little to do with the proactivity of the local council.

So, rather than ask why we are not Southwark, why don't we discuss what should happen to Lewisham? And in specific terms. For example - if you want a major multinational to locate in the borough, where should we bulldoze to put the HQ?

Michael said...

It isn't so long ago that North Southwark was disused docks and nothing 'More'. PWC and the FT made bold moves crossing the river.

Lewisham has a series of DLR stations that Southwark and Greenwich would envy. But virtually no redevelopment has been seen compare to other boroughs in the last 10 years.

Where should we bulldoze? Catford Dog Track, Convoys Wharf, Catford Shopping Centre, Loampit Vale.
Instead the plans are for all these areas to increasing housing in Lewisham and with the small amount of business provision all being about retail.

I know this is not entirely the council's fault. But the core strategy and site allocations reports have all but given up attracting large businesses and replicating the successes of our neighbouring boroughs.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, of course, 40 years ago, London was a different place and areas that should have been prime central London were semi-derelict. A lot has changed as the London economy has grown and its inevitable that the first places to be transformed would be the central London locations. The Southwark comparison is not instructive in understanding what Lewisham should do.

"Catford Dog Track, Convoys Wharf, Catford Shopping Centre, Loampit Vale."

Catford has relatively rubbish transport connections. No major company is going to be tempted there.

Convoys Wharf. The plans do include some commercial space and a hotel. I agree maybe some more should be in there, but again, it is poorly located for public transport. Hard to see many large employers being tempted there yet.

Loampit Vale. Well unlikely to be bulldozed, given that it's just being finished. (And full disclosure: Barratts are a client) but a load of new people and a great new leisure centre will help to make the area more attractive to companies.

But I agree that Lewisham is the one place in the borough that has the potential to attract large employers and I hope that the London Gateway, Thurston Road and shopping centre projects eventually happen and include a good amount of office space.

It will happen. In the mean time, the places that are better connected and more appealing to senior business managers have been ahead of Lewisham in the queue for regeneration.

Lou Baker said...

I say again - as I have many times before - that transport is the big issue here.

Most of the inner city boroughs have good fast tube links with the city centre - on well connected lines. And they have national rail as an option too to one city terminus. We have no tube, a badly connected Overground and patchy rail links. Rather than frequent trains out of one terminus we have less frequent ones out of 4 different ones - meaning longer waits.

Outer boroughs, like Bromley, have good road links. Is there even a single proper dual carriageway in Lewisham? Maybe a small stretch of the A20. Otherwise we're untroubled by decent roads either.

It is neither easy nor straightforward to get to any London airport from Lewisham. The best you can hope for is a change in Croydon.

So if you're a big company - looking for a new London base - you are unlikely to pick Lewisham. Because getting to and from it is such a balls ache.

Anonymous said...

If you can offord it, Lewisham should be your last choice for an office or home.

Preparing to move soon.

Not Anon said...

Hurrah! One less misanthropic fool. I wonder who will have the pleasure of the "every thing is shit" world view? Bexley? Islington? Ealing, yes Ealing is where the torch bearing mob of crazies live.

Fact Check said...

For the record Bromley has about 45000 more people living in it than Lewisham and is about 3 times the geographic area (source Wolphram Alpha.

It also skirts the M25, has a commercial airport and is more typical commuter belt (for those one man limited company consultants).

Sally said...

@Michael 17.21 yesterday - PwC didn't exactly make a bold move crossing the river. They were already there years ago, as one of their offices had been demolished to make way for the Shard and another had been vacated in the mid-2000s when IBM bought their management consulting arm. So arguably More London just gave them a chance to consolidate disparate offices around London and return to the days of two main centres, one at Charing Cross and one at London Bridge.

Brockley Nick said...

@Sally - I think Michael is going back much further to when the first HQ was built.

Tamsin said...

Catford has two stations - Catford and Catford Bridge that between them serve all the southern temini. A speaker coming down from Chalk Farm way recently to an event in the Broadway was amazed by the speed and simplicity of the journey. It is also on the south circular and A21 crossroads (which with the constraints of all the railway lines and limited bridges makes it a nightmare for cars) but means there are buses going north-south and east-west. OK, the south circular going east is a joke for normal traffic any time after 3pm, but the bus lanes make public transport in the area not too bad.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, not too bad for a residential area. But crap in comparison to other business centres in London. Which might not be the end of the world if the surrounding area was a bit more fashionable and the road access was OK, but neither of those things is true, so it can't compete with, say, Archway (tube line) or Chiswick Park (roads).

Catford's future is residential and there's nowt wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

Catford is significantly more fashionable than Brockley if we're talking high streets. Look at all the food!

Anonymous said...

"if the surrounding area was a bit more fashionable"

whats unfashionable about Catford?

Brockley Nick said...

Well we're not talking Brockley are we? We're talking Hammersmith, Chiswick Park, Old Street, Canary Wharf, Uxbridge, Wembley, Park Royal, Richmond, Croydon, etc. That's who you're competing with to attract large companies (which is where the debate in this thread has been going).

Catford can't compete with these places for transport links. And in most cases, it can't compete on amenities, etc for employees.

Anonymous said...

Catford has plenty of amenities! You only need look at the Catford Cat who is hanging down the side of one of them. I don't understand...

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, yes, you're quite right. What was I thinking.

Anonymous said...

That's better :-)

SE London has all sorts of these amenities just under your nose!

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, unfortunately, it's not me you need to convince but the CEOs and MDs of FTSE250 and Fortune 500 companies...

M said...

The one decent amenity in Catford is currently in danger of being closed down! Sign the petition to save the Catford Bridge Tavern here: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/lewisham-council-reject-planning-application-dc-12-81142-x

D said...

...that's the one decent amenity apart from the great pizza place, decent mexican and japanese places, theatre, sports pitches, and 2 train stations serving central london?

Lou Baker said...

Catford is a great example of Lewisham's transport woes.

It consists of a really busy single lane road (South Circ) with a vast number of junctions, all of which have traffic lights which don't seem to co-ordinate with each other. This links in with another extremely busy road (A21) at a ridiculously designed gyratory. The whole lay out bad for cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

We all know it - but few dare say it - that frankly the South Circular needs to be at least a dual carriageway, probably more. But this being Britain it'll never get done.

Likewise the two stations. A ridiculous layout with trains that don't properly connect with each other on the two lines. And because some are infrequent non-metro services they need to connect. The DLR should come to Catford and the Bakerloo line - to a newly built proper interchange. Again, being Britain it'll never get done.

Hence Catford will never attract large, decent employers.

Anonymous said...

"it can't compete on amenities, etc for employees."

As you don't work there, and I suspect rarely if ever go there, could you just run one by all the employees in the town hall please...

Anonymous said...

Catford also host's Brockley's only local KFC.

Save Catford from the mung!

M said...

Yes D, I was using hyperbole to highlight the plight of the Catford Bridge Tavern. For the record (and the pedants): there are other amenities in Catford.

Anonymous said...

Wish Brockley had a KFC.

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