Thursday, January 27, 2011
In the UK the Government’s latest plans to sell off the Forestry Commission’s woodland estate have caused uproar, with campaigners including Dame Judi Dench, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Annie Lennox characterising the suggestion as ‘misjudged and short-sighted’. While the Government are now backing down in part, proposing to set up charitable trusts to own and manage the majority of the sites, they are still selling off a sizeable proportion of the country’s forests to private companies. This has led me to think about whether it matters whether land or forests are privately, charitably or publicly owned if the regulatory requirements and management systems are the same regardless of ownership.
I have been thinking this partly as a lead up to the ALPS conference (deadline 30th January if you haven’t registered yet) as I’m planning on introducing some research I’m doing on the privatisation of public space, questioning whether it matters whether property is publicly or privately owned.
The question that is currently engaging my thoughts on both woodlands and urban public spaces is whether it matters whether property is publicly or privately owned. There are restrictions on use in either case. But does public property feel different? Do we feel a sense of involvement, engagement, a historical connection with property that is publicly owned? Do we automatically feel constrained on privately owned land? I’ve never seen this investigated, so if anyone has any leads, I’d be delighted to hear them. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, ultimately we are constrained by legal, social and personal constraints on our actions in any case. It certainly never bothered Robin Hood.