Public spaces

Public spaces are becoming increasingly privatised, as for example, regeneration of town centres is contracted out to private regeneration companies, and private shopping centres open as alternatives to high streets, taking many of their businesses and consumers.  These new public spaces are often regulated by private security companies rather than the police force and they are able to set their own rules such as the ban on ‘hoodies’ in some shopping centres.

What are the implications?

  • Increase in surveillance and restrictions on civil liberties as private owners can block the rights of groups to assemble or protest (see security and surveillance)
  • Marginalisation of certain groups (for example young people)
  • Increased similarity of local areas, conflicting with trends around increased local political and economic autonomy (see localism agenda)
  • Potential increase in the levels and diversity of investment in public spaces – for instance from new philanthropists and companies with Corporate Responsibility investment programmes
  • Potential higher rents for organisations in areas with significant private sector led regeneration

Moving forward

  • Can your organisation help to maintain and perhaps create new public spaces for groups to come together? Could you work with others to purchase public space, perhaps by taking advance of targeted loan finance?
  • Will your organisation need to consider increasing its income generation activities in order to afford commercial rents – for instance to have central/visible and accessible locations? (This may be particularly relevant to organisations in areas where significant changes are occurring such as the Olympic development in East London)

Want to know more?

Public spaces; what makes a good public space?

Published by:  Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Date:  Ongoing, from 2006

Format: Web-pages and PDFs

What is it?  A series of work by JRF examining how people use public spaces and why they are important for communities and regeneration.

How useful is this?  The breadth of the publications included in this work series offer an in depth analysis into public spaces and all issues surrounding them.  Key publications include: ‘The social value of public spaces’; ‘Young people and territoriality in British cities’; ‘Social interactions in urban public spaces’; ‘Neighbourhood security and urban change’; ‘Markets as social spaces’; 'People make places' (joint with Demos).

Other comments:  This is one of JRF’s major workstreams, and new publications are therefore frequently added. 

Equally spaced? Public space and interaction between diverse communities

Published by: Demos

Date:  2007

Format: PDF

What is it?  A report examining why people enter and use public spaces, and examines how people interact within them.

How useful is this?  The report examines how people act and react within public spaces in order to examine why some are successful, whilst others problematic.  The research is drawn from a mixture of literature review and case studies, providing in depth analysis of the subject and offering recommendations on how public spaces can contribute to building positive relationships and bridges between different communities.

Other comments: Enhancing the use of public spaces in cities’ is also a useful report by Demos.

Helping community groups to improve public spaces

Published by: CABE (Commission for Architecture and the built environment)

Date: October 2009

Format: PDF

What is it? A briefing for local authorities on involving local communities in the improvement of public spaces.

How useful is this?  Based on focus group regional research, this briefing examines the barriers faced by local community groups in becoming involved in improvements to public spaces.  Although aimed at local authorities, the report offers an insight into how local groups can not only improve their own impact on public spaces, but by directing their report to local authorities and provides useful links to other organisations working in the field.  

Last updated at 17:06 Thu 20/Jan/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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