Duke of Westminister colluding in privatisation of Liverpool City Centre

tliouk office at tlio.demon.co.uk
Mon Dec 8 15:00:50 GMT 2003

Duke of Westminister taking over the city
from david green, 06.12.2003 

The Duke, the council and Business elite to 'privatise' central 
Liverpool and exclude the working class

In the city of culture, the real culture is excluded. 

THE Duke of Westminster, Britain's richest man, with the support of 
Liverpool City Council, The Stores Committee (the business elite – 
i.e. owners of city centre big business) and the police and private 
security firms intend to privatise a large part of Liverpool city 
centre. They intend to create what they describe as 'a new urban 
village' with its own social laws and police force. The plan, which 
will see 35 streets in the heart of the city sealed off and 
redeveloped, has sparked anger among locals and civil liberty groups. 

While the duke's company, Grosvenor Estates, claims that the £750m 
redevelopment will transform the area for the better, before 
Liverpool becomes European Capital of Culture in 2008, his critics 
say the plans are an attempt to escalate the gentrification of the 
city centre, exclude those the wealthy define as `undesirable' and 
make even more money for those who have been stealing off the city 
for years. And with the area having its own private police force this 
raises further issues, even for liberal organisations like 
Liberty. "This is a very disturbing development," said Barry Hugill, 
a spokesman for the civil liberties group. "It raises concerns as to 
whether a private police force is going to decide who can and cannot 
come into a public place." 

Despite such objections, the duke's plans are already well advanced. 
Grosvenor Estates recently secured from the city council a 250-year 
lease on an area that stretches from Paradise street to the Pier 
Head. The company intends to spend £100m on the compulsory purchase 
of all the buildings in the area. It will then create in their place 
a swish new shopping centre and a village of 350 yuppie flats, 
penthouses and town houses, all well beyond the economic reach of 
local people. 

Among the places facing destruction are the Quaker owned `Friends 
meeting house' and `Quiggins' a rich culture haven for the young of 
the city, as well as second hand bookshops, cafes and other small 
businesses. One of the most sickening elements, however, is the 
duke's plan to ring-fence the new community and police it using US-
style "quartermasters" or sheriffs. Who will have the power to 
exclude local people from the area. The city council, already lapdogs 
to previous `developments' that have feathered the pockets of 
developers and done nothing for the local population, agree with the 
aims of the project saying only that the regular police and other 
emergency services will be allowed access but the duke's sheriffs 
will "maintain standards". They will have the power to block off 
roads and prevent undesirables using facilities such as `pubs and 
shops in the area. Vagrants, skateboarders, unruly gangs of youths 
and demonstrators can all expect to be turned away at its entrances'. 

A two-month public inquiry which ended last month heard that 
Grosvenor's streets would have traditional rights of way replaced 
by "public realm arrangements" policed by "quartermasters" with 
powers to eject people. Private security companies have similar 
powers in shopping centres but it is thought this is the first time 
that they have been given the right to decide who walks through a 
city's streets. Donald Lee, an Open Spaces Society spokesman, 
said: "When I asked city council officials why the new routes could 
not be dedicated as public rights of way, it was explained to me that 
the council and the developers needed to be in a position to `control 
and exclude the riffraff element'." 

Liberty is outraged and has instructed lawyers to find a way to mount 
a legal challenge. A petition of 150,000 has also been collected 
calling for Quiggins, to be protected from demolition. Even Mike 
McCartney, the brother of Paul and a former member of the Liverpool 
band the Scaffold, warned that if the developers got rid of Quiggins 
they risked losing the "soul and individuality" of the city. 

Grosvenor Estates, which already owns swathes of Mayfair and 
Belgravia in London, claims that the development will bring big 
benefits to Liverpool. Rodney Holmes, Grosvenor's project director, 
said: "People tell us they don't come shopping in Liverpool because 
it's dirty, there is chewing gum all over the place and pavements are 
cracked. We are developing a series of quarters for the area which 
will have security staff making sure that people maintain reasonable 
standards of behaviour." 

The city council is also a firm supporter of the project, which it 
describes as the biggest of its type in Europe. It sees it as a vital 
component of the city's regeneration and says it could create 4,000 
crap jobs for locals. While big multinational retailers have already 
committed to the scheme, it has meant the end for small locally run 
business. Planning permission has already been granted for the 
project but John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, is expected to 
make a final decision early next year. 
It seems they are calling us to battle. 

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