Arts Council launches land trust to secure affordable workspaces

By

Annette McGill

Arts Council England has launched a new independent land trust bringing together public, philanthropic and social investment funds to support affordable creative workspaces for artists.

The Creative Land Trust aims to secure secure 1,000 affordable workspaces for artists in its first five years of operation. The Arts Council has pledged £2 million to provide seed funding. 

The initial funding will enable three models of securing property – 

  • the Creative Land Trust purchasing property and leasing it to studio providers, 
  • taking on joint ownership of a site with a studio provider, and 
  • giving the provider the option to buy back a building over time, as well as allowing the Creative Land Trust to receive properties through transfer of ownership and then leasing the space to a studio provider. 

The Trust’s commitment to affordable rent means the rent will be no higher than £19 per square foot (inclusive of service charges).

The Trust is being supported by the Mayor of London with a pledge of £4m. City Hall says keeping London's creative community is central to the city’s success, with the creative industries contributing £47bn per year to the economy and accounting for one in six jobs in London. Other supporters include Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Outset Contemporary Art Fund.

Pressure for workspaces

Creative Land Trust research (PDF) estimates that 24 per cent of current sites providing artists’ workspace are at risk of closure within the next five years. It says that this is because so few organisations own the freehold to sites (just 13 per cent).

The Trust says 62 per cent of organisations operating sites are registered charities. Along with commercial companies, other organisation types included; a worker-owned cooperative structured as a limited liability partnership (LLP), an unincorporated group and community interest companies (CIC).

DEMAND FOR SPACE

The demand for space is high with 95% of spaces occupied and nearly 14,000 places on waiting lists with 27 site providers.

Speaking at the launch event, Sir Nicholas Serota, Arts Council Chair, said: “Our country’s cities are creative powerhouses, but with success comes the threat of talent being priced out. If the UK is going to maintain its position as a world leader in creative industries, artists need to be able to find long term workspace where they can experiment, innovate, and produce.”

The Creative Land Trust is now calling on developers to provide the Trust with funding or suitable buildings for affordable workspace. Local authorities are also being invited to work with the Trust to safeguard local affordable workspace for artists and creatives to use.