Gated Communities - Building Social Division or Safer Communities?

Gated communities are residential areas that are fenced or walled-off from their surroundings, prohibiting or controlling access by means of gates or booms. It can also refer to a residential area with restricted access so that use is restricted, for example, security villages or exclusive leisure developments.

While the proliferation of gated communities in North America has been observed for some years now, developments in the British context have been seen to be moving in this direction. This conference, organised by the University of Glasgow's Department of Urban Studies, is timed to coincide with the completion of the first national study of gated communities in England and will include presentation of the major findings.

At a time when the Government is committed to mixed use and tenure development to encourage social mix and diversity in urban living, gated communities provide room for doubt over the efficacy of such plans, given the generally affluent profile of residents. The legal structure of gated communities means that most are owned and managed collectively by the residents. Is this participatory democracy in action or can we expect disputes and court cases to follow, as they have in the United States?

Gated communities are at the crossraods of planning, sociological, legal and urban debates. The withdrawn nature of gated living and the threat to the fiscal autonomy of the local council suggest that gated communities are perhaps least about who lives in them and more about who is left out of them with the possibility of less money for social services, a residualisation of housing in general and the creation of self-governing locales.

The prime driver of gated communities is held to be a fear of crime but it is also apparent that those living in and, increasingly, brought up in gated communities may find it difficult to deal with the uncertainty and apparent risk of 'going outside the gates'.

This conference hopes to address a range of questions in this area such as -

* What will happen to the socially excluded if the revolt of the elites is unravelled spatially as well as socially?

* Do all people have the right to live in a gated community?

* How can gated communities be methodologically and conceptually understood?

* What are the practical planning and governance issues associated with managing gated communities?

* Do gated communities provide a way back into the city for the middle classes that so many cities have lost?

* Do door-entry systems and gating of alleys suggest a continuum of gated community styles?

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This conference takes place on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 September at the Teacher Building, 14 St Enoch Square, Glasgow.

Further details can be found at Gated Communities Or contact Judith Hodgson on 0141 330 3535 or Dr Rowland Atkinson on 0141 330 3502

First published: 17 September 2003