This report was commissioned by City Hall, as part of the Mayor’s Good Growth by Design programme. It puts forward recommendations to inform the development of a new Public London Charter, which will set out principles relating to the rights and responsibilities for users and owners of public spaces.
Drawing on evidence gathered from ten public spaces across the capital, both publicly and privately-owned, it highlights the importance of management in making public spaces safe and welcoming to all Londoners. But management practices – rules or codes of conduct, maintenance and surveillance arrangements, curation, and events – vary across the city. And the approach taken is often dependent on landowners’ resources, ethos and attitude.
The report highlights instances of over-regulation and over-policing. It also found that while over-policing can help members of the public feel safe, others may find it intimidating.
The report recommends that landowners should:
- Use considerate and reasonable enforcement in public spaces and only have rules restricting behaviour that are essential for the safe management of the space.
- Create opportunities for informal stewardship of public spaces to reduce the need for dedicated security personnel, for example, employing ground staff who are responsible for cleaning and gardening and who could also assume a supervisory function.
The report also explored growing concerns about the commercialisation of public spaces. It argues that while events can help to promote use of public space, and commercial elements and sponsorship can also help meet running costs, these must not compromise the principle of accessibility and affordability.
To ensure accountability the report recommends that local authorities, when agreeing with developers the creation of new public spaces, should pursue legal agreements that allow them greater oversight of the public space or make sure that development agreements and management plans are tightly drafted, to meet the objectives of the Public London Charter.
Changes to rules and access should be agreed through consultation, to include resident, local business, user, landowner, manager and local authority interests.