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Greens call halt to privatisation of public space in London

Sian Berry, Green Party candidate for Mayor of London, today pledged to introduce rules to ensure that new publicly accessible spaces in the capital are governed by the law of the land.

Her modification of the London Plan would prevent controversial projects such as the proposed Garden Bridge excluding the public at the whim of its owners. It would also stop any future absurdities such as the situation at More London, where Assembly Members had to negotiate for eight years before they could do TV interviews outside City Hall.

She said: “As more and more of London is redeveloped, it’s vital that public spaces are preserved for the public’s use in the most democratic way possible.”

Her announcement came in advance of Saturday’s Space Probe Alpha event near City Hall, to be attended by novelist Will Self, comedian Mark Thomas and “guerrilla geographer” Daniel Raven Ellison. The event will highlight the fact that the adjacent More London development is a so-called privately owned public space (POPS), where photography, public speech and protest are banned.

Similar POPS are proposed for a growing number of projects including the Broadgate complex at Liverpool Street, Kings Cross Railwaylands and the controversial Garden Bridge, which will not be a public right of way even though £60 million of public money has been committed to it.

Sian Berry, who will attend Saturday’s event with Green AM Baroness (Jenny) Jones, said today:  “I’m proud to support a broad coalition of thinkers, writers and speakers at Saturday’s event to show how our rights to access and enjoy public space, including exercising our rights to protest, are being curtailed by arbitrary corporate rules that are not currently able to be challenged by the community. As Mayor, I’ll reassert our right to enjoy and govern the public sphere in the public interest.”

She plans to introduce new rules within the London Plan which will mean new publicly accessible spaces must be governed by local authority by-laws. Her proposals will not prevent developers arguing for restrictions on types of activity to protect residents and businesses from problems, but will mean that any such rules will need to be formulated transparently and accountably.

Academic Anna Minton, an organiser of Saturday’s event, said: “These privately owned places are taking over towns and cities all over the UK but especially in London where there’s so much development going on at the moment, directly threatening democratic rights to the city.”

Her fellow organiser Dr Bradley Garrett added: “Where public land can not be sold off to private interests, it is often now being controlled under Public Space Protection Orders, which criminalise activities like busking and rough sleeping. These quasi-legal orders target the weak, the poor and the vulnerable in our communities.”