United Kingdom: Private city – keep out

Property of the Duke of Westminster. A pedestrian in the Liverpool One development (Richard Carter)
Property of the Duke of Westminster. A pedestrian in the Liverpool One development (Richard Carter)
The Guardian (London)

In the name of urban regeneration, entire swathes of cities like London and Liverpool are now under private ownership and policed by private security firms. Writing in the Guardian, Anna Minton reports on a new Britain where seemingly innocuous activities such as eating or taking photographs are now forbidden.

The Guardian reporter Paul Lewis, who fell foul of anti-terror legislation last week, is the latest in a long line of alleged miscreants stopped and questioned after straying on to private land. Lewis was stopped and searched by police under section 44 of the Terrorism Act for taking photographs of the Gherkin, one of London's landmark buildings.

This monitoring and surveillance of innocent activities, which does not necessarily require anti-terror laws, is taking place all around Britain as a result of the growing private ownership and private control of cities. Liverpool One, which spans 34 streets in the heart of Liverpool, is effectively owned by the property company – Grosvenor – belonging to Britain's richest man, the Duke of Westminster's, which leased the entire site, including streets and public places, from the council for 250 years. Cabot Circus in Bristol, Highcross in Leicester and what promises to be the biggest of all, Stratford City in London, are all owned and run by property companies.

These areas follow the model pioneered by Canary Wharf and the Broadgate Centre in London in the 1980s. Then, these districts were exceptional places, created to meet the needs of business. Now this is the template for all new development, large or small. With its 170 acres, Stratford City – one of the main sites for the 2012 Olympics – will be a private city within a city. Read full article in the Guardian...

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