The loss of public space is not only a threat to street politics but risks eroding local character in favour of corporative homogenisation.
In the last decade, large areas of British cities have been redeveloped as privately owned estates, so that companies are now extending their control through ownership of some of the busiest squares and streets. The redevelopment does not only take the form of shopping centres but also open-air spaces which, although they look like public spaces for citizens, they are not. It would appear that privatisation of public spaces is the price that must be paid if they are to be renovated.
An article published in The Guardian
explains how companies see medium- and long-term profits in turning public spaces into private developments, while the local authorities see this private investment as a way of avoiding having to pay the costs associated with maintaining public spaces, even while acknowledging the importance of making citizens feel that they are part of a functioning community. However, there is also a third factor in this situation, namely activists who oppose privatisation, warning that developers favour energy-intensive ornamental spaces with high footfall, in which community spirit and sustainability cease to be priorities, quite apart from the fact that owners can restrict entry to these spaces. Controversy will be unavoidable.
The Guardian has asked its readers for help with information in order to create a map of privatised public spaces in Great Britain
showing the extent of corporate control.