Friday, 11 December 2009

Boris' 'Manifesto' to keep public space public

Surprised and pleased to see Boris Johnson call for public space to remain genuinely public. In his ‘Manifesto for Public Space’, which goes under the heading, ‘London’s Great Outdoors’, Boris writes that “there is a growing trend towards the private management of publicly accessible space” and that where this “corporatisation” occurs, “Londoners can feel themselves excluded from parts of their own city”. But he makes clear “this need not be the case” pointing to the Kings Cross development where it has been agreed that the local authority will retain control of the streets and public areas – ‘adopt’ the streets to use the jargon. He explicitly states: “This has established an important principle which should be negotiated in all similar schemes.”

The Mayor has considerable planning powers so this is a significant policy statement. The irony is that the Greater London Authority, Boris’ own office and the seat of democratically elected government in the capital, is in ‘More London’, the privately owned enclave at Tower Bridge, policed by the kind of private security that makes Londoners feel “excluded from parts of their own city”.

‘London’s Great Outdoors: A Manifesto for Public Space’, by Boris Johnson, can be found at:
The relevant paragraph is buried on page 8, but it is nonetheless there. Whether Boris ensures developers and London’s local authorities listen remains to be seen.

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