Sunday, 10 June 2012

Cutting up Space, Part 1: L = S - [l + c + i = e + p]

As a psychogeographer I am particularly interested in pieces of land that appear to be waiting for something to happen. These can be owned by either the local council or a property developer and can be in abeyance for many reasons, including land-sitting (buying property to stop someone else buying it, or buying land speculatively). Sometimes, in the case of local councils, funding might have run out and the land development halted. Rarely, are they owned by individuals, although there are cases of private houses being left vacant, as has appeared on the news recently.

The land in the image above is off Low Lane, Horsforth, Leeds, and I think it might be waiting for further development in relationship to the future Woodside Railway Station in Horsforth, although I'm not certain.

This strange liminal space is in Hunstanton, Norfolk (below), is just off the promenade, but is easy to miss. Who does it belong to? Was it part of someone's garden? Do the council own it?

Philip Kivell's book 'Land and the City' is a really interesting book and discusses these issues:

He introduces a neat formula that is used in calculating land value which is dependant on the market value of existing properties in the local area:

L = S - [l + c + i = e + p]

L = developer's bid price for the land
S = anticipated selling price of completed development
l = estimated land preparation and infrastructure costs
c = estimated construction costs
i = estimated interest charges on land and construction costs
e = estimated legal and marketing costs
p = estimated developer's profits

There is a lot of development going on in the Holbeck area of Leeds, although it has somewhat come to a halt recently; for instance, the demolition of the terraced houses in one particular area. The satellite map below shows the rows of terraced houses that are under threat. It is not easy to see, because the road names block the view of the actual streets, but some of the terraces have already been pulled down. A local solicitor told me that the only reason that the demolition has stopped is because the council ran out of money.

Local councils acquire space currently used for private housing through Compulsory Purchase Orders. They just need to have a 'good reason' to do this, invariably economic, and it can be done with little recourse. The laws in this regard changed in the 1980s and became vaguer in relation to urban policy. This meant that just about anything could be done under the aegis of adding economic value to a region. We can thank Margaret Thatcher for this. Anna Minton writes about it in her book Ground Control

Kivell comments on land speculation when discussing power in relation to acquisition. He remarks that some critics of it claim that it "provoked the 1974 recession through an unbalanced flow of land onto the markets, the distortion of production costs of firms and the reduction in the spending power of households." (p. 131). I have heard this theory from other sources, too.

While Kivell does not talk philosophically about the cutting up of space (this is not his field), he does talk about zoning: the demarcation of space by the State for specific purposes. I think G. Spencer Brown's Laws of Form may be a useful way to approach this, coupled with deconstruction, so Part 2 of the blog will investigate the cutting up of space from that perspective.

Please click here for part 2 of this blog:

The following links may be of interest:
What else could go here?
Student farm in Brooklyn