Meanwhile, in London: Making use of London’s empty spaces

This report analyses the extent, value and potential of meanwhile use in the capital.

London is full of unused spaces that could be used for temporary housing, workspaces, parks, community gardens and retail, otherwise known as meanwhile uses, but are not.

Leaving sites empty is costly, and in a city where land is at a premium, meanwhile use can improve the development process and offer affordable space for the next generation of entrepreneurs, artists and activists to emerge and experiment.

The report found:

London’s meanwhile use sector is blossoming…

  • There are at least 51 active meanwhile sites across the capital, with over two and a half times the floorspace of Selfridges.

Yet while the number of meanwhile projects is increasing, London’s empty spaces aren’t being used to their full potential…

  • 24,400 commercial properties in London are currently empty, and 22,500 have been empty for at least six months.
  • 2,700 hectares of land – the equivalent of the London Borough of Lambeth – has planning permission to develop, but construction has yet to start.

The report identified three key hurdles to making better use of these spaces…

  1. Landowners often overestimate the risks and undervalue the benefits of giving over a site to meanwhile use.
  2. Planning and licensing systems can make meanwhile projects difficult to undertake.
  3. A lack of larger meanwhile use operators limits capacity to take over sites and manage meanwhile activity.

Recommendations include:

  • The Mayor should set up a meanwhile use competition for empty sites across London.
  • London boroughs should release regular open data on empty commercial units, and try to improve planning and licensing processes for meanwhile use.
  • The Mayor should develop a “Good Practice Code of Exit” to strengthen trust between landlord and occupier.
  • The government should reform the 1954 Landlord and Tenant Act to encourage landlords to allow shared use of commercial space.

Read the report

Supporting documents

Major Sponsor

This project has been generously supported by


Meanwhile Use

18.00–20.30 12 July 2018

Venue: U+I, 7A Howick Place, SW1P 1DZ