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04.03 Protest, Britain, Planning and Legislation

The UK’s current model of planning looks towards increased levels of privatisation without considering their consequences beyond the immediate financial returns. The effect on society (most noticeably the restrictions placed on protest and therefore democracy) are not considered. There are also political, social and economic conditions which coincide to increase both the propensity and the necessity to protest. Coupled with the recent changes to legislation governing the public realm, the UK has reached a point where protest democracy and the public realm are undermining each other at a time when their importance needs to be placed at the top of the political agenda.

So who deal with issues of societal control, the ‘right to the city’ the power and transfer of knowledge? Considering the fact that levels of societal control have increased since the 1970s and 80s which has in turn coincided with the citizen’s perceived reduction and consequential actual reduction in access to the city and its control mechanisms (specifically in the UK). Ironically this has all happened in the context of a society which have increased their basic knowledge base (we currently live in the ‘information age’) whilst doing little to advance this knowledge to inform, empower, liberate or democratise.

So what is the value of ‘direct action’ strike action, the use of derives. I would argue that the value of analysis of protest is to encourage of protest activity where individuals or groups feel unrepresented, to escape the gaze of the society of the spectacle. This is more relevant today than it was in the late 50s and 60s due in part to mass commercialisation and institutionalisation. What is problematically ‘overlooked’ are the activities of the public realm and their translation to the built environment.

Haussmann’s wholesale redevelopment of Paris to quell revolution, coupled with the desires of John Nash to create a show piece for the power of a nation in projects such as Trafalgar Square and Marble arch give evidence to this. However, over time the very spacial constructs which have historically signified the power of the state, have been utilised by protests and revolutionaries to undermine that very power, the ever changing role of the iconic.

What is the role of protest in today’s society?

How can protest allow us to achieve a greater sense of representative democracy?

Could iconic acts of protest from the past be executed in today’s Britain? Indeed what are the constructs which would restrict (or indeed promote) them.

The danger when living through a zeitgeist is that one is unaware of the restrictions of that epoch. The protest file aims to shine a light on this with an end to focusing on the changes which need to occur to create a more democratic society through protest in the public realm.

This article was written in 2011 and as such is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time

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