Oxford City Council to create affordable business space for entrepreneurs in East Oxford

Published: Thursday, 11th November 2021

Oxford City Council is set to create affordable business space for entrepreneurs and start-ups in East Oxford.

The £9.7m plans will see Standingford House in Cave Street off St Clements demolished and the site redeveloped to create a flexible and accessible new workspace.

The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) secured £1.13m of investment towards the project via the government’s Local Growth Fund, and is helping support the proposal for 30% of the workspace to be let at 80% of market rates - providing affordable business space for Oxford’s new start-ups.

The Cave Street plans were agreed by the City Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 10 November. It is anticipated a planning application will be submitted early in 2022, with work due to start later in the year.

History of Standingford House

Standingford House is owned and managed by the City Council and is a 9,500 sq. ft. 1960s industrial building.

While it currently houses 14 businesses and organisations, the building is in need of both repair and modernisation to meet current and future efficiency standards. It also has poor accessibility, with no wheelchair provision and no lift access.

The City Council investigated a range of options, including refurbishing the existing building, but the building is now at the end of its life and redeveloping the site is the best use of funds as well as providing the right space to meet the needs of modern businesses and offers the opportunity to provide more than double the existing area of workspace.

A new Standingford House

The new workspace will see a significantly increased area from 9,700 sq.ft. to approximately 23,000 sq.ft, making efficient use of an important site allocated for employment use in the Oxford Local Plan.

The new two or three-storey building will be flexible to enable fledgling businesses to easily scale from one desk to a self-contained office. It will offer a range of different spaces, such as breakout spaces, meeting rooms, individual offices and single desks, offering businesses a choice currently unavailable to them.                        

The new building will be fully accessible and achieve the highest possible BREEAM (Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method) rating of ‘outstanding’

Fostering an inclusive economy

Oxford is regularly named as having one of the best performing economies in the country, including coming top of the Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities report four years in a row, but the city lacks high-quality business space.

According to agents VSL & Partners, rents have increased by as much as 46% through the pandemic. Bidwells estimates that approximately 75% of all lease activity is driven by knowledge sectors, with demand for office and lab space outstripping supply.

Oxford needs more good quality, flexible workspace to meet the needs of businesses. It also needs a greater level of affordable business space for organisations in the early stages or with limited funding to get started.

The City Council has a corporate objective to enable an inclusive economy. The aim of this is to distribute wealth more equitably across the city, for example by encouraging businesses to pay the Oxford Living Wage, and to provide affordable space for Oxford residents, including those from more deprived areas, to start new businesses.

Existing Standingford House tenants

Tenants have been aware of plans to redevelop the site for some time and the City Council is currently consulting with them on the redevelopment.

The City Council’s work with existing tenants includes supporting them to find alternative accommodation to their current premises at Standingford House.

The Council is working with existing agents and organisations in Oxford, as well as employing agents to help find suitable space.

The City Council has been meeting with tenants individually and all tenants will be offered the opportunity to return to the new site on Cave Street.

“Oxford’s economy is one of the best performing in the country, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to make sure that talented local businesses have the space in which to start up and grow and we hope this investment gives them the leg up they need.

“We have been supporting existing tenants to help them find alternative premises during the construction, and look forward to welcoming many of them back once the new building is complete.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council