Rowan O’Malley

Urban Space: Privatisation and the threat to urban resilience, diversity, culture and democracy

This thesis examines the growing phenomenon of privatisation of public space and the threat it poses to urban resilience, diversity, culture and democracy. The provision of publicly accessible space under the control of private owners and management, known as Privately Owned Public Space or ‘POPS’, has become an increasingly entrenched blueprint for how to develop and manage public spaces within the urban realm. Critics label it the ‘death’, or ‘end’ of public space, reducing the diversity, vitality and vibrancy of cities, while proponents herald it as a ‘transformation of public space’ which ultimately enhances rather than undermines public space in the city. The research focuses on the development of POPS within London in order to examine the effects of privatisation of public space on the city. As the capital of the United Kingdom and a centre of global importance, London is a city where the diverse urban challenges of the contemporary city are evident in a myriad of forms. The history and scale of urban development within London provides a testing ground to explore key concepts of POPS, such as public versus private space, land ownership, spatial patterns and distribution, post-industrial decline, urban regeneration, the Neoliberal city, security, and planning policy, which are driving development and the manner in which they are shaping the urban form of the city. The thesis concludes with a comparative case study of Granary Square at King’s Cross and Gillett Square in Dalston, representing two disparate approaches to the provision and management of publicly accessible space within the urban realm.

Gillet Square, Dalston