The independent London newspaper

With council offices on Argent land, citizens have lost out

23 August, 2019

Camden’s Town Hall in Pancras Square

• I SEE from your report (Town Hall demands urgent talks with developer over ‘facial recognition’ tech use, August 15) that my almost-namesake, Cllr Danny Beales, is concerned about the use of face recognition technology, in the streets around the new council offices, by the private company owning that area.

Perhaps that’s the sort of thing Camden Council should have thought of before moving half of their offices from public streets to the middle of a private “development”.

Since, despite what many people might think, the railway lands site is not public space, the owners can obviously do what they like.

Furthermore, have councillors considered the implications for basic democracy? People accessing the area do so with the consent of Argent, the landowners, whose guards can remove anyone behaving in ways they disapprove of.

So when I try to walk around the area with a scarf covering my face, carrying a large placard denouncing Argent, it seems likely that I’ll come up against Argent’s private “police” and be sent away. (Perhaps I’ll ask a press photographer to witness the event!)

Yet I could approach other council offices in that way without any problem. So there are now legal limitations on the right of a Camden citizen and Camden tenant to access council services if they’re based in the King’s Cross building.

I suggest the council should tell their landlords that unless everyone can have completely unfettered (and unspied-upon) access to their King’s Cross offices in the same way as they can to other council offices, they will relinquish their tenancy and move back to a public area.



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