Hop Off Pops

By Mark Sheppard.

Zucotti Park at night (Source: Wikipedia, 2017).

No, this isn’t a Dr Seuss rhyming story.  POPS stands for privately-owned public spaces.

POPS are not new.  We’ve had them in our shopping malls and office forecourts for decades.  But with the growing cost of land in our cities we seem to be increasingly relying on POPs rather than publicly-owned spaces to expand our primary public realm.

Does this matter?  Well, that depends on how you want people to act in your city.  If you think it’s really important to make sure everyone behaves within carefully confined parameters and doesn’t do anything that might be provocative (and pays for the right to be in the space by buying a coffee), then POPS are for you.  But if, like me (and John Robert Smith), you think public spaces are where people should be able to express themselves freely, exchange ideas and hang out regardless of their ability to afford frequent caffeine intakes—particularly in an era when digital communication is threatening our culture of face-to-face socialisation—then we should be concerned about the rise of POPS.

Guardian Cities reports that many local governments in the UK are refusing to reveal the extent of POPS and the restrictions on the rights of people who use them.  So not only is our public domain being privatised, but so too is information about that privatisation!


What do you think?  Should we insist that new public spaces are publicly-owned or at least have no additional restrictions on people’s behaviour?

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