Public life in private hands

Date published: 
26 May 2011

This report calls for changes to the planning system to keep London's public space open and accessible to all.

Our Planning and Housing Committee calls for changes to the planning system to manage the creeping trend towards private control of public space – which can lead to excessive restrictions or exclusion.

Public life in private hands looks at the different ways the public realm - including squares, parks and thoroughfares - is managed. It identifies a number of concerns relating to the shift in the ownership and management of public spaces from local authorities to developers, and recommends solutions.

The Committee found that many boroughs lack explicit policies for the management of public space in new developments, and that local people are often not given the chance to comment at an early stage on how public space in their area will be run.

The report calls on the Mayor to develop new planning guidance and encourage boroughs to agree principles for the management of public space in new developments at an early stage and to engage with local people about the plans.

Watch a short video about the report's findings:


Key recommendations:

  • The Mayor should consider developing Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) on the public realm once the Draft London Plan is adopted.
  • The Mayor should encourage boroughs to draw up meaningful written agreements with developers that secure the highest possible level of public access to managed public spaces in new developments, whether they are in public or private ownership.
  • Boroughs should be mindful, when preparing their LDFs, of how public space is to be managed in any significant schemes and how they will engage the community in both the design and the ongoing management process.

Read the full report and the evidence we received during the investigation: