Police use CS spray as anti-gentrification protesters mass in Brixton

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sun Apr 26 00:41:19 BST 2015

Police use CS spray as anti-gentrification protesters mass in Brixton

Police station and town hall invaded and shop 
window smashed as thousands demonstrate against soaring rents
A peaceful protest against gentrification in 
Brixton, London, has ended in violence. The local 
town hall was stormed by protesters, the window 
of an estate agents was smashed, and CS spray gas 
was used to disperse protesters who had gathered at a Brixton police station.
More than 1,000 people had taken part in the 
Reclaim Brixton rally on Saturday and its 
organisers insisted they did not want trouble. 
Their aim was to demonstrate the community’s 
concern about the area’s gentrification, with 
locals being priced out of the housing market and 
smaller, individual businesses being driven out by high rents.
For the early part of the afternoon, the crowd 
who gathered in Windrush Square were content to 
wave placards and play music. However at around 
3.15pm, some protesters managed to push their way 
into Lambeth town hall where they were confronted 
by police. No damage was done and no arrests were made.
Protesters then turned their attention to Foxtons 
estate agents, which has become a focus of local 
opposition to the area’s gentrification and has 
been targeted for vandalism in the past.
One of its windows was smashed and the words 
“Yuppies out” were written in spray paint across 
another window. Police officers arrested one 
person on suspicion of criminal damage.
Later police revealed that they had also used CS 
spray on “a small group of protesters” who had 
entered Brixton police station at around 4.10pm. 
Again no one was arrested, although police said 
on Saturday night that they were continuing to 
keep a strong presence in the area.....

"By 2020, you will need to earn £90,000 just to 
afford to rent privately in Islington"

50 years of gentrification: will all our cities turn into 'deathly' Canberra?

The drive to make cities more ‘liveable’ means 
parks, plazas and happy pedestrians. But the 
reality is ever more sterile, identikit cities 
where public space isn’t public at all
Canberra australia OECD liveable cities
Wainwright - 
- Friday 12 December 2014 14.56 GMTLast modified 
on Wednesday 17 December 201412.31 GMT


What makes a liveable city? Having lots of nice 
parks, you might think, a decent public transport 
system, good schools and hospitals, great 
architecture, exciting nightlife, easy access to 
the countryside. These are just some of the 
factors used by organisations who draw up annual 
lists of “the most liveable cities in the world”. 
And yet somehow, they end up with 

This year, for the second year running, 
Australia’s political capital was named the best 
city in the world by the OECD (Organisation for 
Economic Co-operation and Development), a result 
that made northern hemisphere observers wonder 
if, down under, they were looking at the rankings upside down.

is a deathly place. It is a city conceived as a 
monument to the roundabout and the retail park, a 
bleak and relentless landscape of axial 
boulevards and manicured verges, dotted with 
puffed-up state buildings and gigantic shopping 
sheds. It is what a city looks like when it is left to politicians to plan.

So what other cities make it on to the rankings? 
Intelligence Unit puts Melbourne in first place, 
followed by Vienna, Vancouver, Toronto, Adelaide 
and Calgary. There is never any mention, on any 
list, of London or New York, Paris or Hong Kong. 
There are no liveable cities where you might 
actually want to live. It makes you wonder if 
their chief parameter is finding a place where 
you won’t be disturbed from reading the Economist 
on a windswept plaza, surrounded by the soulless 
wipe-clean charm of an identikit downtown. 
Liveability, it seems, is defined by a total 
absence of risk or chance, pleasure or surprise. 
It is an index of comfort, a guide to places 
where you can go safe in the knowledge you’ll never be far from a Starbucks.

The one thing many of these cities have in common 
is that they are places 
Gehl has worked his magic. The Danish guru of 
streets and public spaces has made a career out 
of travelling the world to whisper sweet nothings 
about pedestrianisation and pavement cafes into 
the ears of enrapt mayors. He has become the patron saint of liveability.

This week he met up with his old chum 
Rogers, our own doyen of the public realm, along 
with Arup’s head of planning, Jerome Frost, to 
discuss what makes a liveable city, at a 
Live event that I had the pleasure of chairing. 
At 78 and 81 respectively, Gehl and Rogers are 
titans of talking about how places can be made 
better, having advised most global cities between 
them. They dutifully conversed about the primacy 
of the bicycle, how cities should be for people 
not cars, the importance of density and 
was held up as the ultimate model, a city that 
has been turned into a utopia for people and 
bikes over the last 50 years, in no small part 
due to Gehl’s pioneering work. He pointed out 
that it consistently tops 
magazine’s liveability list. His granddaughter 
can now walk all the way to school without having to cross a road.
copenhagen denmark people bikes

 Denmark’s utopia for people and bikes. Photograph: Alamy

Rogers recounted the principles he set out in his 
landmark white paper, 
an Urban Renaissance, published in 1999 as the 
product of the Urban Task Force he chaired under 
New Labour, which has guided urban regeneration 
in the UK ever since. Build on brownfield land 
and build tall, he said; lure people back into 
city centres with cultural buildings, flats and 
better public spaces; invest in public transport 
and build over transport nodes.

Their values are difficult to argue with: it’s 
all people-centred common sense, with a good dose 
of al fresco dolce vita. Everything would be fine 
if everywhere was a bit more like Siena.

“They said pedestrianisation would never work in 
Copenhagen because we’re Danes not Italians,” 
said Gehl. “But now we’re more Italian than the 
Italians.” A contented smile crossed his face.

Yet the nature of what has happened in numerous 
cities, since both men set out their visionary 
stall 20 years ago or more, is often a very 
different animal to what was espoused in their 
manifestos. In their influential, highly 
seductive texts, there is rarely any mention of 
questions of power and conflict, nor who or what 
will be driving the development. There is no 
acknowledgement that their new city visions might 
come at the cost of something else.

Take the holy grail of public space, held up by 
both Rogers and Gehl as the ultimate good: plazas 
and piazzas in concrete and granite are conflated 
with the abstract idea of the civic commons. 
“It’s good for democracy if people can meet each 
other on the street,” said Gehl.

But it overlooks one crucial thing. London has 
built many fine new public spaces over the last 
decade, but 
are not in fact public – they are extensions of 
the privatised realm, to which the public is 
granted conditional access. “Welcome to King’s 
Cross,” reads a sign in front of the new 
fountain-fringed Granary Square. “Please enjoy 
this private estate considerately.”

The lofty open space beneath Rogers’s new 
office tower may be an unheard-of concession to 
persuade a speculative developer to make, but it 
is little more than an office lobby without 
walls. It is another private doormat, garnished 
with small strips of grass, that is managed by 
Broadgate Estates, the company 
Occupy protesters from Paternoster Square in 
2011. Having cleared out the rabble, they erected 
a sign that read: “Paternoster Square is private 
land. Any licence to the public to enter or cross 
this land is revoked forthwith. There is no 
implied or express permission to enter the 
premises or any part. Any such entry will constitute a trespass.”
The 'public space' beneath the Cheesegrater is managed by Broad

  The ‘public space’ beneath the Cheesegrater is 
managed by Broadgate Estates, the company that 
evicted protesters from Paternoster Square. Photograph: Sonja Horsman/Observer

I put this to Rogers. Might the future of 
Cheesegrater Square be a place where personal 
provisions of parmesan may not be consumed?

“Ideally all public space should be public,” he 
said. “But while we live in a capitalist world, 
especially one run by extreme capitalists, it’s 
better to have semi-public space than no public 
space at all. As architects we have limited control.”

It is the same response he gives when challenged 
about all the other buildings his office has 
produced in London over the last few years. 
Hyde Park, 
three of the most exclusive developments of 
luxury apartments the city has ever seen, most of 
which stand empty as vacant silos for foreign 
deposit boxes stacked up in the sky.

In 1997, Rogers railed against the creeping 
influence of the paranoid gated communities he 
had seen in LA, which were “segregating rich from 
poor and stripping citizenship of its very meaning”.

“A new type of citadel has emerged,” he wrote in 
for a Small Planet. “At the touch of a button, 
access is blocked, bullet-proof screens are 
activated, bomb-proof shutters roll down. The 
appearance of the ‘wrong sort of person’ triggers 
quiet panic.” Fifteen years on, this could be 
straight from the sales brochure of any one of his new developments.

“You can’t stop private buildings having 
surveillance,” he responded. But with a practice 
of 200 working across the globe, you don’t have 
to accept every commission. And as a member of 
the House of Lords, these are issues one might have a position to lobby for.
one hyde park apartments london richard rogers

 the Household Cavalry march past 
One Hyde Park luxury apartments in London. 
Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

Another question of the evening was how to 
deliver urban regeneration without encouraging 
excessive gentrification. Asking architects about 
gentrification – particularly one whose practice 
is defined as 
quality consultants – is a bit like asking sweet 
manufacturers how to reduce the problem of 
obesity. They are, of course, agents of 
gentrification, purveyors of the urban lubricant 
that smooths the displacement of those on lower 
incomes to make way for the arrival of more 
wealthy residents. They are hired by public 
authorities and private developers to conjure “value uplift”.

It is neither a new nor unusual phenomenon, but 
this year it proves to be particularly timely: 
the term gentrification was coined exactly 50 
years ago, in the prescient writings of Marxist 
Glass. “London may acquire a rare complaint,” she 
wrote in 1964, after studying the rapid change of 
places like Notting Hill and Islington, from 
neighbourhoods of blue-collar workers to 
desirable havens for the middle-class urban 
gentry. “[The city] may soon be faced with an 
embarras de richesses in her central area – and 
this will prove to be a problem.” The idea of the 
inner-city becoming desirable and overpriced was 
unthinkable at the time. But 50 years on, we have 
exceeded her worst nightmares.

A recent report concluded that Islington has been 
subject to a wave 
after an influx of London’s financial elite, 
meaning that middle-class professional families 
can no longer afford to put down roots. By the 
end of the decade, those who do not qualify for 
social housing will need to earn £90,000 a year 
just to rent in the area, it claimed.

“This will leave Islington polarised, with very 
wealthy families at the top, a youthful transient 
and childless sector in the middle, and those on 
low incomes at the bottom, living in social 
housing.” But with better paving, nicer parks and 
a branch of every chain restaurant along the high 
street – along with private security, courtesy of 
the local business improvement district – it will 
no doubt be more liveable. One step closer to the 
dream of 

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