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Publication Detail
Vacant land in London: narratives of people, space, and time.
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Freire Trigo S
  • Date awarded:
  • Awarding institution:
    UCL (University College London)
  • Language:
Vacant land is a persistent urban phenomenon that became a relevant political issue in the UK in the 1960s. It has been problematised as a waste of a scarce resource (i.e. urban land) that needs to be brought back to use. The consensus around this way of thinking has been almost unanimous, despite the contradiction between the idea of scarcity and that of vacancy. This research explores this apparent contradiction to understand and address the ‘vacant land problem’. The thesis suggests three premises that provide an original framing of the problem. First, it posits that far from being a measurable object, vacant land is a social construct highly dependent on its context. Second, it contends that vacant land is linked to a time-less understanding of land transformation, which reduces change to a static process. Third, it depicts the allocation of urban land as a political process currently geared towards economic growth. Brownfield land (i.e. the current concept of vacant land in England) embeds that goal. These premises portray vacant land as a dialectical construct that cannot be fully grasped and dealt with from a positivist, time-less approach. The research employs a Lefebvrian framework to understand that construct and its relationship with vacant land transformation. A comparative analysis of two brownfield sites in London illustrates that process. The narratives of the different actors involved in the transformation of the sites provide the empirical material of the thesis. The thematic analysis of those narratives provides the answers to the research questions. The thesis reveals vacant land as a planning tool that facilitates the creation of land for growth. It concludes that a dynamic and inclusive framing of land transformation could challenge the growth-led function of ‘vacant land’ and point to a more socially sensitive way of bringing about urban change.
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