The Mayor of London Boris Johnson in calling on developers, planners, local authorities and others responsible for the planning and design of the capital to put culture and creativity at the forefront of their thinking about developments in the city.

A new report, An A-Z of planning and culture, written and researched by the Mayor’s Culture and Planning teams, outlines the practical steps that can be taken to integrate and protect culture, and support new cultural activity as part of developments. These include local authorities entering into Section 106 agreements with developers to ensure delivery of much needed cultural infrastructure, and giving voluntary and community organisations the opportunity to bid to take over venues by turning them into Assets of Community Value.

Speaking at the launch of the report earlier this week, Johnson said: “As London continues to grow and prosper, there is a critical need to build more homes for Londoners, but this should not be at the expense of our culture and distinctiveness, which are hugely important for our economy.

“There are good examples of developers and planners incorporating culture into their regeneration schemes. We want more of them to be talking to, even working with cultural bosses, artists and other creatives at the start of projects and recognise the value of culture, not just to our city’s quality of life, but to the success of their developments.”

Artists squeezed out

Johnson’s comments echo a recent statement by the deputy mayor for education and culture Munira Mirza, and come amidst increasing fears that artists and creative talent are being squeezed out of the city because they find studios and workspaces unaffordable and London increasingly expensive to live in.

The report cites earlier research in suggesting that the capital could lose 3,500 artist’s studios in the next five years – a third of the capital’s creative workspace. It says the urgent need for housing and the impact of commercial and business redevelopment, combined with other factors such as local planning issues, licensing rules and rising business rates are contributing to this loss, but points out that cultural spaces are a key part of London’s attractiveness as a place to live, work in and visit.

The Mayor’s office says he is backing a range of initiatives to support the capital’s cultural and creative sectors, such as using the London Plan to ensure boroughs take a pro-culture approach to planning. It says he is encouraging cultural organisations to bid for regeneration funding, with recent examples including the SPACE studios project on Mare Street in Hackney, and Bow Arts’ plans to re-open The Old Manor Park Library in Newham as a public workshop space for artists.

The publication coincided with a summit of 250 developers, planners and cultural leaders on 26 October at City Hall, London, to look into the issue. This will be followed by a summit of senior leaders from 30 ‘global’ cities in November to address the challenge of ensuring culture is at the heart of urban development.

The Mayor’s office says he will publish a new report in 2016 specifically looking at new models of funding for artist studios.

An A-Z of planning and culture

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