The public-isation of private space

There has been much written about the ‘privatisation of public space’. This project explored these challenges and narratives by questioning whether we have seen a privatisation at all. Through an analysis of historic and contemporary data, it concluded that, in London at least, we have actually witnessed the reverse, a ‘public-isation of private space’. The work went on to ask what are the management implications of the trend and found that the negative associations around privatisation are often misplaced and that public-isation processes have the potential to deliver a substantial net gain to society. At the same time, the public interest management implications are just as real for public-isation as for privatisation processes.

Three primary methodologies were used to explore the London case. Secondary academic, popular and policy sources were used to establish the recent history of debates in London before primary data gathered by The Guardian newspaper on the extent of privatised public spaces in the city was subjected to re-analysis in order to better understand the efficacy of the case against privatisation. Finally, action research brought together public and private players to explore whether new policy approaches can be devised with a focus on addressing the long-term debates and guaranteeing the future publicness of London’s public spaces. Notably, the idea of public authorities adopting a charter of public space rights and responsibilities was tested in order that the potential benefits of public space projects are captured and negative impacts avoided.