7 Jan 2017

Being a private development the Garden Bridge Trust can set a long list of rules for those they accept onto their property. Despite their project demanding vast sums of public money, it causing huge damage to public heritage views and it destroying a public park you will only be allowed on the bridge if you agree to and abide by their rules.

One of these rules is that nobody is allowed to:


Now, this may seem innocuous but it gets to the heart of how privately owned public spaces (POPS) are taking over the city, and the fact that they may appear public but restrict citizens from acting in a free way has huge repercussions for how we design our city going forwards. Who are you to say that I, as a citizen of London, paying my taxes and being socially responsible, cannot take a tin whistle out of my pocket and play a tune as I walk to work? It represents a total corporate control of the civics which is turning us from citizens to subjects and is, in effect, another process of the historic “enclosure” acts which removed public rights, freedom and access to shared, social space.


Last year Sian Berry, then campaigning to be London Mayor and now a London Assembly Member, along with others including Will Self, Mark Thomas, Bob & Roberta Smith, took part in Space Probe Alpha to highlight the real risk to public civic life that this increase in POPS has. This film shows what she has to say:


Another present was academic geographer Bradley Garrett who writes for the Guardian on the matter, including this article stating:

“when space is controlled, and especially when the public is unclear about what the legal or acceptable boundaries of activity are, we tend to police ourselves, to monitor our behaviour and to limit our interactions, especially after embarrassing confrontations with security”.


The Garden Bridge would link up two other quasi-public areas, the Northbank BID and the Southbank BID. A BID is a ‘Business Improvement District’ in which local corporations join forces to create a management system of the area which can lead to other authorities reliquishing a certain level of control. As such they create spaces which their businesses demand, which is different to what a city demands, and they are managed with a certain community, consumer and audience in mind.

The well-connected trustees of the Garden Bridge (including Alistair Subba-Row, a real-estate advisor to high-end property on the north and south bank) sought to position themselves within these two BIDs straight away, and by being members of these partnerships all with the same consumerist and controlling interests, they would minimise democratic discussion about their scheme’s merits and smooth their corporate and political path to deliver their development.

As a BID manager says in a report (PDF) by writer Anna Minton, “It’s nice to make it clean but we’re not doing it for the community agenda but for the bottom line. It’s all about the bottom line – we’re a commercial organisation which retailers invest in to improve the retail environment”.


As we give over our city design to corporate developers with visible or vested financial interests in maximising land value, consumerism and rent return we are no longer designing a city with citizenship, social cohesion, public commons or shared experiences in mind. We are creating a corporate-state, and the Garden Bridge which would have sponsored planting, private security, managed queue systems and a long list of rules and regulations is

It may be that you look at the full list, below, and think “well, most of those are sensible, I wouldn’t want to do that”, but there are laws of the land which citizens abide by for organising our social spaces. To create these quasi public spaces, using public money to remove public access, rights and ownership, we lose our ownership of the city, of ourselves and our trust in a shared society.



This post was originally part of The Garden Bridge 12 Days of Christmas.


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