Whose space? That’s not a rhetorical question. If furores in London Fields over proposed road closures and barbecues reveal anything, it’s that a growing population brings with it growing pressures and competing demands.
Both stories are about space and how best it should be used.
A scheme presented as a progressive plan to create more space for cyclists entailed closing roads to through-traffic.
It wound up pitting residents against ‘fume free’ campaigners hoping to banish cars. The Town Hall, which tried to steamroller through its plans, has now been forced into a quagmire of consultation. Meanwhile, the wider tussle between motorists and cyclists for space is nowhere more evident than in Hackney thanks to the sheer number of bikes.
Then there’s barbies. Residents were themselves left fuming when London Fields was trashed by inconsiderate grillers. Now the council will pay private guards to patrol this public space.
But hang on, London Fields is common land, which means anyone is free to use it – and more use usually means more mess.
With Hackney now the eighth fastest growing local authority in England, according to new government data, space-related quandaries are only going to get more acute.