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20 February 2020updated 24 Jul 2021 4:11am

Introducing a New Statesman series: Britain’s Lost Spaces

The New Statesman team will be tracking the decline of the public realm through vanishing community buildings and spaces.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Since New Statesman editor Jason Cowley spoke to his aunt in April 2018 about the sudden closure of her GP surgery in Harlow, Essex, we have run a series of reports entitled “Crumbling Britain”. Its aim is to shine a light on how public spending cuts have affected individuals, communities and services. You can read all of the pieces to date here.

As a sequel to that theme, we are launching a new series called “Britain’s Lost Spaces”, which will track the disappearance of public spaces through spending cuts, privatisation and socioeconomic changes such as the decline of the high street.

Owing to shrinking local authority funding, more than 12,000 public spaces have been sold off by councils since 2014/15, according to an excellent investigation by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism with HuffPost UK and regional journalists last March. These include libraries, community centres and playgrounds.

This trend across Britain coincides with the rise of “pops”, or “privately-owned public spaces”, in cities, whereby corporations gain ownership of public areas. These pseudo-public spaces in London were mapped out in a revealing report by the Guardian a few years ago.

How does it affect people to lose the places where they have always been able to congregate? Will there be a political backlash, and how does policy-making tie into this phenomenon? What solutions are local groups and communities finding to address the problem?

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From sky gardens to shopping centres, our team will be telling the story Britain’s lost spaces and the impact on our daily lives.

If you have an example you would like investigated, please get in touch with Britain Editor Anoosh Chakelian at anoosh[dot]chakelian[at]newstatesman[dot]co[dot]uk.

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