Sav­ing Lon­don’s out­door liv­ing rooms

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

LON­DON­ERS’ ‘out­door liv­ing rooms’ are qui­etly and swiftly be­ing taken over by pri­vate com­pa­nies, the Lon­don Assem­bly (LA) has said.

Pass­ing a mo­tion for greater trans­parency when landown­ers of pub­lic spa­ces set ac­cess rules, the Assem­bly said on Thurs­day Septem­ber 7 that “it is ap­palling that ac­cess can be re­stricted” to out­door space in the cap­i­tal.

The mo­tion seeks re­vi­sion of an “un­usual” plan­ning rule, which means pri­vate com­pa­nies de­cide who has pub­lic ac­cess to land.

Assem­bly mem­ber Sian Berry, who pro­posed the mo­tion, said be­ing able to know what rules you are be­ing gov­erned by and how to chal­lenge them is a “fun­da­men­tal part of democ­racy.”

She con­tin­ued: “The se­cre­tive way pri­vate own­ers of pub­lic places, like our parks and squares, set rules for the pub­lic must be made trans­par­ent.

“Even City Hall – the seat of the demo­crat­i­cally-elected Mayor and Lon­don Assem­bly – is sur­rounded by 13-acres of the pri­vately-owned More Lon­don de­vel­op­ment, which means that this out­door ‘pub­lic space’ is con­trolled by cor­po­rate rules and not the law of the land.”

Ac­cord­ing to Guardian Cities and Greenspace In­for­ma­tion for Greater for Lon­don CIC , there are around 50 sites in Lon­don which are named “pseudo-pub­lic spa­ces” - 13 of them in west Lon­don - a to­tal of 6.32 hectares.

The LA’s mo­tion urges Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan to show more trans­parency in the next Lon­don Plan, when al­lo­cat­ing pub­lic spa­ces to the pri­vate sec­tor.

Nicky Gavron AM, who pro­posed the amended mo­tion said: “In­creas­ingly, Lon­don’s pub­lic space is in pri­vate hands and there is very lit­tle trans­parency around which in­di­vid­u­als and groups can have ac­cess.

“These are Lon­don­ers’ out­door liv­ing rooms and it is ap­palling that ac­cess can be re­stricted.

“It is vi­tal this is dealt with in the Mayor’s forth­com­ing Lon­don Plan and that city-wide trans­par­ent, ac­count­able and uni­form guid­ance for set­ting the rules for how these spa­ces are gov­erned should be is­sued.”

The full mo­tion reads: “This Assem­bly wel­comes the Mayor’s com­ments in re­sponse to rev­e­la­tions about the ex­tent of pri­vately owned pub­lic space

in Lon­don and the non-trans­par­ent way pri­vate own­ers of pub­lic squares and parks set rules for the pub­lic.

“The Deputy Mayor for Plan­ning, Re­gen­er­a­tion and Skills told the Guardian news­pa­per the Mayor’s new Lon­don Plan would seek to ‘max­imise ac­cess and minimise re­stric­tions, as well as en­abling plan­ners to es­tab­lish po­ten­tial re­stric­tions at the ap­pli­ca­tion stage for new de­vel­op­ments’.

“This Assem­bly be­lieves that the next Lon­don Plan should go fur­ther and es­tab­lish real pub­lic trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity for set­ting rules to gov­ern these spa­ces through the life­time of de­vel­op­ments, not just at the ap­pli­ca­tion stage.

“The Assem­bly there­fore calls upon the Mayor to en­sure that the as­pi­ra­tions set out in his Pub­lic Lon­don ini­tia­tive are en­shrined in the Lon­don Plan so that trans­par­ent, ac­count­able and uni­form guid­ance can be pro­vided across Lon­don.”

It was agreed by 14 votes for, seven against.

PHOTO: CARL COURT/GETTY GETTY IM­AGES

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