Our place or theirs?
The Guardian has done a superb piece of work, documenting all the privately owned 'public spaces' in London. In a sense this is nothing new. Ever since Anna Minton's book 'Ground Control' the problem has been clear. And most of us have known that some of the large spaces in London are under private control, such as King's Cross (relatively benign) and More London (possibly less so). But the sheer number here is breathtaking - and the paper believes that it may not be comprehensive and is asking for further contributions.
For most of us, who behave fairly well most of the time, the private security guards are not much of an issue. But if you are homeless, or maybe just a bit scruffy or loud, you may rapidly discover that you are not as free as you thought you were.
I love London - it is my city, and I have a sense of ownership. I do not want to have standards of behaviour imposed on me that I have not been subject to since school (and I wasn't happy about them then). The rules can be arbitrary and they are not transparent. The Guardian cites security guards saying that there are rules but they are not allowed to say what they are.
And lest you think this is all about London - that is where this piece of research was done. Other cities will also be affected.
As a journalist you are taught early on that 'there is no such thing as a free lunch'. It seems that there is also no such thing as free regeneration. We are only just beginning to grasp the true costs of PFI. Giving away great parts of our cities may prove to be expensive as well, in terms of money and liberty, and very hard to reverse.