A new business development in Brockley is due to open within the next fortnight. Finishing touches are currently being made to Martin’s Yard, located off Endwell Road, close to Brockley station.
Martin’s Yard was designed by architects Duggan Morris. The buildings are designed to look like beach huts, with touches of bright pastel colours, and the meandering narrow road between them is something akin to the natural contours of a beach.
The development is mixed use, as is favoured now by many local authorities, and has 33 business units to let (managed by MacDonald Egan).
The business units will be left in a shell state for the tenants to customise as they wish, and they have been built to allow modification in the future. There are also 47 “affordable” residential units to let (managed by Gallions Housing Association).
Rob Hammond, assistant development manager at MacDonald Egan, says they have an agreement with Lewisham Council that six of the business properties will also be “affordable” and will be let to small businesses operating in the creative industries. At the moment, only two of the units have been let, although the developers say they have not yet started to market the properties in earnest.
Jennifer Summers is a local entrepreneur, and is the managing director of an information management business called ONEIS. She also runs the Hilly Fields Network, a group that encourages local small businesses to collaborate and share skills with each other.
She currently operates from her house in Ladywell, but has been looking for office space in the area for some time. She said the lack of suitable premises is holding back the development of business in the area, but she’s excited about the Martin’s Yard development and what it could mean as a new business hub for Brockley and the surrounding area.
Despite the economic recession, Summers’ business is thriving. She runs ONEIS with her husband Ben, and they have just hired their first full-time employee.
She said there is always scope for a good idea to succeed. “In almost any situation, there’s business opportunities. If you can deliver a useful service that others will pay for, and you can sell it for less than the cost of providing it, then you have the potential for a successful business.”
“It would be a lot easier for businesses to succeed if the economy of the country as a whole was buoyant, if people felt confident and happy and were out spending money,” she said.
And while many people across the country are facing hard times, Jennifer said the best way for the government to foster business growth is to invest in the wider community, and not just focus on business.
“I’m more concerned about the government supporting the economy as a whole than business-specific initiatives. Businesses need a healthy workforce, so stop the sell-off of the NHS. Businesses need an educated workforce, so support education and make it easier for bright people to get to university. Businesses need reliable, affordable public transport, so stop exorbitant fare rises. Business happens in the context of a community and you have to support the community as a whole for everyone to do OK.”
Blog Brockley Central has called Martin’s Yard the most significant development in Brockley since the arrival of the East London Line.
The opening of the East London Line in 2010 connected the south-east London with areas like Shoreditch, in a journey time of less than 20 minutes. Shoreditch is now famously home to the Tech City hub based around Old Street.
An advantage for Brockley in terms of business development has been its transport links, which connect the south-eastern suburb with central London in a few minutes.
Summers goes to many meetings and events in that part of London, and said that the ease of travelling between north-east and south-east London may encourage more tech businesses to set up in Brockley. She said that having a local network is hugely important for small businesses.