April 2005

Liverpool a Gated Community

Town of Neuburg an der Donau, Germany  in the 16th century  century

A Gated Community is a residential area or a development that is fenced or walled-off from its surroundings, either prohibiting or controlling access to these areas by means of gates or booms. (Atkinson & Flint 2004).

The redevelopment of 53 acres at the centre of Liverpool includes anecdotal evidence of creating "the largest gated community in Europe". The joint development between Liverpool City Council and Grosvenor Estates describes a masterplan for the city's redevelopment, but their intersecting ovals of vision and accompanying outline planning descriptions offer no concrete details.

The development of Liverpool's city centre is problematic enough from the viewpoint of urban planning and social justice, particularly the probablity of a "Doughnut effect" whereby the centre of the city becomes home to an affluent minority while the periphery becomes the domain of the less prosperous.

The likelhood is also one where the new city centre developments are inhabited largely by new comers to the city, and thereby diluting the essential character of the city. In saying this I am not seeking to romanticise the native character nor to protest these new developments, which are much needed in a city which has seen little major planning since the Lutwaffe bombings of the Second World War. The essential concern in the the present work is that parts of the city will henceforth and in perpetuity become "private" with no automatic right of way to all citizens.

There are many examples of the varieties of gated communities in North America and Europe, some like exclusive holiday resorts or retirement communities we may consider benign, but as examples they contain the essential elements of all gated communities - defense, privacy and separation. Defence stems from a fear of crime, privacy from the desire for annonynimity, and separation from a fundamental fear of the other. Of course these perceived benefits come with a price premium but more importantly these arrangements ensure that the gated citizens only have to relate to people like themselves and any broader engagement with the social polis approaches zero.

During the 1880's Liverpool was the richest city in England, but by the 1980's it was described by observers as a post industrial city wherein it's economy, previously derived from shipping and the transatlantic trade, had collapsed. As a consequence the population began to shrink with the exodus of skilled workers and concomitant with a perceived sense of social unrest within the city the value of the city's housing stock was by the mid 1990's among the lowest in the United Kingdom.

By the end of the twentieth century Liverpool was being described as one of the poorest cityie in the European Economic Community and was consequently awarded massive subsidies from European community funds in an endeavor to stimulate development of it's new economies of tourism and education. Parrallel with this, the timely UK property boom offered an unrivalled opportunity for outside investment in Liverpool houses and commercial building at bargain basement prices.

Aided by Liverpool's recognition as the 2008 European City of Culture and it's proposed listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site there is now excavation and development on virtually every street corner to repair the bomb damage of an earlier century. The post industrial city of Liverpool has become a heritage city where the finest Georgian architecture alongside later nineteenth century neoclassicalism buildings rocks to the revolutionary Beatles drifting down the River Mersey. This is all good news but alongside these refurbished cultural icons there has in fact been little in the way of any new industries or culture aside from tourism. The new economic character of the city has instead seen a massive growth in bars and city centre housing.

The developments now underway to transform 53 acres at the economic heart of the city centre in the Paradise Street Development (PDSA) will bring about profound changes in the city plan. The fact that an unspecified amount of this development will be a gated community (GC) in what was ten years ago one of the poorest city's in Europe suggests an experiment in urban planning of the social habitat on a massive scale.

Links to Research Papers and Opinions about Gated Communties

The Suburban Paradise or the Parceling of Cities?

by Renaud Le Goix.
An analysis of discourses, fears and facts about the sprawl of gated communities in Southern California

Gated communities a force for good.

Reports Westminster University.
Gated communities can help social inclusion, improve local environments and assist urban renewal, according to controversial new research from Westminster University.

Space Invaders - The Privatisation of Public Space

Anna Minton's Corporate Report on behalf of the Royal Institute of Chartered Architects.
This report looks at the growing private ownership and management of the public realm and argues that a quiet revolution in landownership, replicating Victorian patterns, is just beginning.

Gated Communities in America: Walling Out the World?

By Robert E. Lang and Karen A. Danielsen - Fannie Mae Foundation.
Gated communities � enclaves of homes surrounded by walls, often with security guards � are becoming increasingly popular in America. This article introduces and analyses findings of a Fannie Mae Foundation-sponsored panel on gated communities.

Fortress UK: The Spatial Revolt of the Elites and Time Space Trajectories of Segregation

By Rowland Atkinson & John Flint
An excellent PDF research paper from the University of Glasgow July 2004

Fortress America: More and more of us are living behind locked gates.

By David Dillon
(Planning Magazine � June 1994)

Resource - gated communities in the USA.

This page presents some of the issues surrounding the growing number of gated communities in the United States.

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2005 Peter Hagerty