Guardian Cities contacted the landowners of more than 50 pseudo-public spaces in London, asking an identical set of questions: what restrictions are in place covering users of your land, how are these enforced, where can members of the public see a list of these restrictions, and what conditions are there in the relevant planning agreements regarding public access to your land? We also asked whether a series of public activities – including peaceful political protest, non-commercial photography, non-commercial artistic performances and rough sleeping – would be permitted on their site.
Of all the landowners contacted, only two – the Canary Wharf Group, which owns large stretches of land in the Docklands, and East Village, a new development on the site of the old Athlete’s Village near the Olympic Park – provided a full set of answers. The Canary Wharf Group said that it was “very anxious to ensure that there is public access to the common areas [of its land] at all times” and that it wanted visitors to “feel that the common areas can be used as public spaces.” East Village told the Guardian that the company is “committed to making East Village as welcome a neighbourhood as possible, and any policies we have are focused on maintaining the public realm for everyone’s safety and benefit.” Both landowners insisted that they would not restrict political protests on their sites, although it should be noted that the Canary Wharf Group has previously taken out a legal injunction to prevent anti-capitalist protesters from rallying there. Both landowners also said that homeless people attempting to make a bed would be asked to leave the site but would be directed towards relevant support services. East Village said that permission was needed for any photography or filming on its land; Canary Wharf Group said that non-commercial photography and filming was allowed. Both landowners said advance permission was needed for artistic performances and requests would be considered on a case by case basis. Neither landowner provided a definitive list of rules and restrictions in operation at their site that could be accessed by members of the public.
Of the other landowners contacted, the companies British Land (owner of Regents Place and Paddington Central) and CC Land (owner of the space around the Leadenhall Building) both provided short statements that did not directly address the questions asked. The remaining landowners contacted – including the Grosvenor Group (owner of Brown Hart Gardens in Westminster), Land Securities (owner of New Street Square and Cardinal Place), the Westfield Corporation (owner of open land around its shopping centres in Stratford and Shepherds Bush), and all the other landowners mentioned in the main body of the article – refused to comment.
Editor: Chris Michael; reporter: Jack Shenker; research: Naomi Larsson and Athlyn Cathcart-Keays for the Guardian, Julie Cox and Chloe Smith for GiGL; production: Nick Van Mead; graphics: Pablo Gutierrez
Original Aritcle: theguardian.com