Picketing in public-private space at KX

How weird is this? I am consulted by both sides in a picketing rights issue. Yesterday, 30 November, was a day of coordinated and major strikes by public sector workers in the UK and I had some interesting calls about where it is possible to picket outside the first big public service in the King’s Cross Railway Lands – the University of the Arts (UoA or CSM) in the Granary Building. One call was from a union member in the UCU branch there. I answered that and tried to give some useful advice. Now I’ll be interested to know how they got on. But a little later someone phoned from the developer, Argent (or to be precise from Broadgate Estates who seem to be doing the site management for Argent) asking for the same sort of advice! That was a voice message and I didn’t open my messages until today. So now I have written to the Argent caller as follows:

Dear Nicolette Williamson

First of all apologies for failing to return your call yesterday morning. The day was very hectic and today I have been teaching all day and only just now turned my phone on again and got your message.

Any exchanges we have now will be of historical interest only, I guess, since the strike day is over. However I would like to get the story clear – as would you I expect.

I’m deeply amused that both the UCU local union branch and the developers (yourselves) chose to get on to me for advice on this matter. It surely is ironical.

One of the union organisers called me for advice early on Wednesday. Essentially what I said to him was that
(i) The compromise reached between Argent and Camden, and embodied in the S106 Agreement, says that the streets in KXC are to have the status of public highway while the other open spaces (squares, parks etc) will be private space under the control of Argent and their partners. I’m sure I am right about this.

(ii) The ‘streets’ clearly include Goodsway, the Boulevard and its bridge and the road which will then turn left after the bridge to run west and then north around the Granary. This is a bus route in the plan, and therefore clearly a street.

(iii) The Square in front of the Granary is a non-street and thus one of the areas which is controlled by Argent and thus NOT public highway.

That’s really all I know about the situation – and it’s what I would have said to you if I had picked up your message yesterday.

If the Boulevard is actually Argent’s private property then that could be either because
(A) I am simply wrong in my understanding set out above; or
(B) Argent has built the Boulevard and has not yet handed it over to camden for adoption and to the police for policing.

I’m delighted to hear that Argent did not try to eject the picket from what was, perhaps, Argent’s land.

Can we clarify this situation any further? What do Argent’s lawyers say? Have you asked Robert Evans?

Have you seen the London Assembly’s recent report on these issues? I think that Nicky Gavron and Jenny Jones at the Assembly would be most interested in how it is playing out at KX.

Best wishes, Michael

[Next day 2 December here is Peter Marcuse in NY writing about the need to plan effectively for spaces in which #Occupy and like forms of democracy can flourish. ]

Next day I hear from the union members in the UoA/CSM local branch. They had initial aggravation from Argent’s people but were then left alone after being firm and asserting their rights. This is their account of the events. It certainly is un-resolved.

3 Dec: Rebecca send this interesting link to Audio track on a NY radio, and crowdsourcing, and Prof Cadin who wrote a book about it. http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/2011/oct/19/privately-owned-public-spaces/

4 Dec: Yasminah Beebejaum (via Twitter) reports that at Salford U the security staff of Peel Holdings – developer which owns the site of “Media City” where the campus is – actually ejected the UCU picket. Details at http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=1210

2 Responses to “Picketing in public-private space at KX”

  1. Andrew Curry says:

    Interesting post on an important issue. You may be interested to know that I wrote a couple of recent posts at my blog on the same theme:

    http://thenextwavefutures.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/privatising-public-space-1/

    and

    http://thenextwavefutures.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/privatising-public-space-2/

    Andrew Curry

  2. Thanks Andrew – very helpful.

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