Privately owned public space: where are they and who owns them?

Darren mail at
Mon Jun 24 17:45:45 BST 2013

post at (with a lot of discussion not posted below)

Help us to create a map of privatised public spaces in Britain so we can 
see just how much of land is under corporate control

We're in the middle of a creeping privatisation of public space. Streets 
and open spaces are being defined as private land after redevelopment. 
It began with Canary Wharf but is now a standard feature of urban 
regeneration. In future, one of the biggest public squares in Europe - 
Granary square, in the new development around Kings Cross - will be 
privately owned. There are privatised public zones across Britain, from 
Brindleyplace in Birmingham to Liverpool One.

It's not easy to track the scale of this change. You can search the land 
registries covering England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but 
you have to do it one location at a time - and there's a cost attached.

Local authorities keep a register of streets which lists whether it is 
part of the public highway or is private. This list includes open spaces 
in the form of squares, but not parks. But this is only available to 
organisations which coordinate street works.

We're asking readers to add to our map of privatised public spaces in 

For the purposes of this project, we are not looking at enclosed 
shopping malls - only open spaces, from streets and city squares to 
village greens, beaches and riverbanks, where there's a reasonable 
expectation that the space might be public.

The way to begin is by looking at re-developed spaces near you. Often, 
there'll be signs informing you that the land is private. There are 
three ways of confirming ownership - via the Land Registry in England 
and Wales (but you have to pay £4 for the details online, £8 for a 
printed version), by contacting your local authority, or by getting in 
touch with the developer. In Scotland, the public has access, for a fee, 
to land ownership records at the Registers of Scotland which can only be 
inspected in person.

When you've identified a privately owned street, park, square or beach - 
contact us here with as much detail as you have - the name of the 
location, a postcode. Even if you can't get any confirmation beyond the 
private property notice, that would be a good starting point for our 
reporting. You're welcome to send in pictures and commentary too - is 
there a sign saying its publicly owned? Is the public space truly 
welcoming to the public? Is the space gated or patrolled by private 

This isn't necessarily an alarming development. Private investment can 
revive run-down public areas. But it's one we need to be aware of.

Here's our online noticeboard for you to add details. Join the Twitter 
conversation by using the hash tag #keeppublic.

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