“It became clear to me that high security was especially a feature of very poor and very wealthy areas, a visual marker and reflection in the landscape of our sharply widening inequality.”

Still available here -> fourthought.mp3 <- Right click and Save As.

Here’s Anna Minton writing in the Guardian on the day before her Radio 4 talk:-


Will Hutton put forward a similar point of view in an article about fairness for the Observer in September 2010.

“Ever more sophisticated CCTV policing the fortresses of the rich and the desolate housing estates of the disadvantaged has become the iconic social intervention of the age.”


Back to Anna Minton again:-

“Efficiency drives have witnessed the end of the benign authority figures that I grew up with, the caretakers, bus conductors and park keepers, replaced instead by uniformed guards with the power to issue fines and sanctions.”

Her comments take me straight back to the East End which was my home for a few years in the seventies and the situation that prevailed then. There was a working and popular library, a park, and a regular stream of number 69 Routemasters taking me to Leyton tube station and off to work every day.

“The caretakers, bus conductors and park keepers” of whom she speaks, would in those days have been people with wartime experience, or their sons and daughters; who carried with them a natural authority which helped maintain order. Certainly the manners on the street and the buses that I remember from that time were a far cry from today.

There’s a nice chapter on the same subject from Colin Cramphorn, a contributor to a document about the withdrawal of the Routemaster by TfL. Download this pdf and go to page 61 entitled “The security of the Routemaster”.

I’m not saying that they can’t be replaced by people of today, clearly they can, but I worry a little that the people they are put in charge of, the unruly youth, on the buses and in the parks, may not be so easily supervised and controlled.  Much as I support the good intentions of rolling back Secured By Design, I am not certain that the Genie can be put back in the bottle and I say that with regret.

Supervision is a two way street, it depends on the acquiescence of the supervised as well as the presence of the supervisor.


I enjoyed the fifteen minute talk and by and large agree with her that it is time to roll back the SBD society and hope that things improve, and that people are able to regain their sense of security without the all too visible, and expensive, manifestations of it formed in metal. This will not happen, however, without the reinstatement of the “benign authority figures” we have lost, and whether in a time of austerity this is likely to happen I simply don’t know. But I sincerely wish it would.

BBC notes

Anna Minton, author of “Ground Control”, argues that the increasingly high security surrounding public and private buildings creates a sense of fear rather than safety.
Four Thought is a series of talks offering a personal viewpoint recorded in front of an audience at the RSA in London.
Alan McInnes, director of Secured by Design responds:

“SBD is awarded when homes and buildings meet a minimum security standard. Security has become a factor in planning because of high levels of crime, inadequate, low grade security fittings by builders in past years and the Crime & Disorder Act which logically required public authorities and police to have crime prevention on their agenda for the benefit of the whole community.

SBD is only one of several strategies, including social and community interventions that are supported by these agencies. Police specialists in each force spend their time advising architects, builders and members of the public about security methods and the principles of designing out crime. This is a free service. Insurers have no part to play in this.

What Anna Minton is complaining about is not SBD but design concepts of particular architects. Many SBD estates are mixed development and the social housing elements certainly do not stand out as ghettos. SBD is about reducing crime and the fear of crime through a blend of design and realistic physical security.

There are many thousands of homes benefitting from SBD. Independent research in cities and towns around the UK has shown that SBD properties suffer 50% less burglary crime. Just upgrading the doors in Glasgow social housing reduced burglary by 20%, whilst car related crime can fall by 25% and surveys of residents, many of who have not heard of the project, report feeling safer in their home and their community.”

Notes I made while listening to talk

Poverty safari
Estate deprived
Coach gasped
30′ railings with spikes
Council buildings
War zone
Militarised fortress
High security
Private security guards
CCTV in cabs
Liverpool One
CCTV in Liverpool One
Deprived parts of city drones
High security feature of poor and wealthy areas
High security all public buildings, housing hospitals schools
Not public pressure
Consequence of Secured By Design
Police backed miniumum security requirements
Requirements for planning permission
Private security industry
Terrorism agenda
Privatisation of public space
High security environment
Defensible space architecture
Gates fences CCTV security guards
End of benign authority figures caretaker, bus conductor and park keeper
SBD began 1989
2000 became private company
Better it works less it should be necessary
More you have more you want security
Gated development
Become adapted accustomed to extra security
Losing out ability to cope with complexity of everyday life in the city
Success paradox
Crime has been falling fear of crime has been soaring
Fear of crime does not correlate with actual crime
It correlates with trust
Jane Jacobs natural surveillance
Trust underminded, more fearful places
Solutions part of the problem
Denmark happiest country in the world low levels of fear
Open street CCTV banned
UK generation of young people have high level of security as backdrop to their lives
Surface to air missiles Olympics
Gunboats on the Thames
Debacle of G4S
Entrenched. gates fences defensible architecture required standards in order to get planning permission
Militarised fortress you would expect to find in a war zone
Based on audit of local crime risk
Higher security in high crime areas
High crime areas are invariably poorer area
Very high levels of security have become markers of deprivation
Insurers keen on SBD
High security attracts lower premiums
Higher prices for secure properties
Fails to reassure people make them feel safer
Trust at an all time low
Shared space
Removing street furniture to make roads safer
Oxford Circus / Exhibition Road
Remove CCTV gates & guards -> places become safer
Share space was ridiculed for years
It’s people that make places safer not defensible architecture gates and CCTV

n.b. the above notes were used to make the Wordle at the top of the page.

The BBC have read my article, which is nice. (5th) I hope they liked the Wordle.

Follow ups . . .

Beyond, next to the Regents Canal, is the striking but ungainly new Bridge Academy designed by BDP and which won an Engineering Excellence award. Security apparatus makes it look like a Belfast police station – so much for being in the community.


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