Gated!

Were I still in the business of offering career advice to young entrepreneurs, then my current advice would be that they could do a lot worse than get into the gates business. As the rich get richer and the rest of us get what we always get, the better off are getting pretty serious about their gates. Even here in northern and proud of it Liverpool.

Some people's gates are things of beauty.

Some people’s gates are things of beauty.

Others seem more brutal.

Others seem more brutal.

As if the inhabitants are living in fear of ram-raids from tanks.

As if the inhabitants are living in fear of ram-raids from tanks.

I first noticed this gates thing while spending time out in the leafier suburbs with Sarah, looking for monkey puzzle trees. She’s running a blog about these ancient trees and the simple fact is, that though there are ‘urban monkeys’ you’re much more likely to find them where people have got bigger gardens.

An urban monkey - just so's you know.

An urban monkey – just so’s you know.

Anyway, so out in leafy suburb land I couldn’t help noticing that a good number of people were locking themselves away, as illustrated.

Then yesterday me and my camera happened to be strolling along Carnatic Road, just up the hill from Sefton Park, where I found there is a festival of gating going on.

Carnatic Road, looks pleasant enough.

Carnatic Road, looks pleasant enough.

A bit of building going on.

A bit of building going on.

A bit of gated community building.

A bit of gated community building.

Don't worry though. It'll be a 'select gated community'.

Don’t worry though. It’ll be a ‘select gated’ community.

Is there another kind?

Then on the other side of the road?

There's another one.

There’s another one.

All safely settled and locked in.

All safely settled and locked in.

Now as you’ll know if you’ve read very much of what I write, it’s long been one of my self-appointed tasks to walk down all the roads of Liverpool just to see what’s there. Someone’s got to and I’ve decided it should be me. So to be denied access, even to what looks like a fairly short and stumpy cul-de-sac, feels like an unfair restriction of my right to roam. Leaves me feeling a bit Kinder Scout and as if a mass trespass might be in order.

Just next to Calderstones Park are more roads I can’t walk along.

Just off innocent, pleasant looking Yewtree Road.

Just off innocent, pleasant looking Yewtree Road.

Another gated community.

Another gated community.

Tantalising glimpses of the ambulatory joy that is denied me.

Tantalising glimpses of the ambulatory joy that is denied me.

Not particularly formidable gates and fencing.

Not particularly formidable gates and fencing.

But enough to keep me out and stop me sleeping in that skip there. Or whatever it is they’re all worried I might do.

And just along the road? You’ve guessed it.

Yet another gated community.

Yet another gated community.

Now to me these gates and the poor souls who live behind them just look mildly creepy. But to the United Nation’s housing chief (who knew they had one?) they are symptoms of a deep societal malaise. Here’s what Joan Clos, a former Mayor of Barcelona, tells The Guardian:

“It is with increased preoccupation and sadness that we see how gated communities are proliferating everywhere. This is an expression of increased inequality, increased uneasiness in accepting diversity,” said Joan Clos, executive director of UN-Habitat, the human settlements programme.

“The ideal city is not one with gated communities, security cameras, a futuristic scene from Blade Runner, dark and dramatic, with profound unhappiness … We need to at least build a city where happiness is possible and where public space is really for everybody.”

I think he’s coming on a bit strong with the Blade Runner stuff there but I do appreciate his support on public space. I mean, what if there were monkey puzzle trees along these gated streets that we couldn’t get in and photograph? It would be an infringement of our human rights as well as an attack on the scientific soundness of Sarah’s Monkey Puzzle database. That serious.

Now as for gates in general, they can be charming.

These are also on Carnatic road and contribute kindly to its charm.

These are also on Carnatic Road and contribute kindly to its charm.

While even a bricked-in gate can be a thing of beauty.

While even a bricked-in gate can be a thing of beauty.

It’s just when the gates have roads behind them I feel I’m in the presence of not just a divided society, but a society where the ‘haves’ don’t care any more.

'you may say I'm a dreamer...'

‘You may say I’m a dreamer…’

Yes, I’ve lived in the city long enough to know that the days of open front doors seem to be over. But let’s not continue with this aggressive nonsense of locking the roads up, hey?

 

19 thoughts on “Gated!

  1. robertday154

    I think the UN commentator is wrong about the vision of the future represented by gated communities. ‘Soylent Green’, yes; but ‘Blade Runner’ – no…

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Ha! You’re right Robert. I’d forgotten about ‘Soylent Green’ – fantastic dystopian film. I’ll always walk past those gates now and think of that.

      Reply
  2. Malcolm Taylor

    And I thought it was only my paranoia that made me think that gates are springing up everywhere I look. Even in the back streets of Wigan back alleys that I once ran down as a kid are being gated at either end.

    I went for a walk a couple of weeks ago around my childhood stamping ground and found my way back to the main road blocked time and again by heavy gates across the alleyways between once friendly terraced houses.

    And in the more affluent country areas the first thing folk who buy a big house with a view do when they move in is build a big wall around their property and block out the view!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Yes, I don’t like the ‘big wall’ syndrome either.

      Alley gates though? They’ve been quite effective in cutting crime here in Liverpool. And they don’t block off any terraced streets.

      Reply
  3. Liz Miller

    This links with your blogs on libraries and markets – community magnets where “all worlds can meet,” which could also include quiet places like cathedrals and green spaces, which make a city a liveable place. Gates like these keep the world at bay.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      True Liz. And I feel sorry for the people who feel they need to do that. I don’t think of Carnatic and Yewtree Roads as in any way dangerous places. So why gate yourself off from them?

      Reply
  4. Helen Devries

    I saw my first gated community in Norwich in the 70s…we used to wonder whether it was to stop us contaminating them or vice versa….
    Here in Costa Rica all the new developments are enclosed and gated….and despite the gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts and whatnot provided for communal entertainment seem very sad places to me.
    But they don’t close off roads with gates…..yet.

    Reply
      1. Helen Devries

        Only if you are checked out by a householder within to a guard on the gate….but these aren’t street layouts at all…they are blocks of land enclosed by a wall and plots sold off within for building so you don’t have even the impression of an urban community.

      2. Helen Devries

        Thoroughly repulsive.
        There is one on my bus route to San Jose which I think of as the ghetto….walled, gated and the houses hugger mugger within….almost sinister.

  5. Phil Charnock

    There’s a gated community near me down Garston/Aigburth way. After finding a stray dog I was going door-to-door around the area to reunite the doggy with her family. I wanted to go into the gated community so I asked a neighbour how I could gain access to find out if the dog lived in that area. “I wouldn’t bother” I was told, “they don’t allow animals in there.” Wow, what a joyous existence.

    Reply
  6. lindsay53

    Yeah, I’ve noticed that a lot of the gates you photograph Ronnie are ‘chapeau de Gendarme’ style. I.e. they rise in the centre. Apparently, this style says ‘keep out’ whereas if the gates are lower in the centre they say ‘welcome’. Apparently. I just think of the damned inconvenience of having to open and shut gates all the time & just more electronic paraphernalia to go wrong. Does anybody actually know anybody who lives in these gated communities? Interesting to know what they think…!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Who knew? The semiotics of gates and how to read them. Glad you’re on the line from France with the correct French term!

      From my observations, those with the rights of entry, i.e. not you or me, get in and out with remote controls. Perish the thought the dear frightened souls would have to get out of their cars and use a key. As to what they think……(long pause stretching to infinity)

      Reply
  7. Martin Greaney (@histliverpool)

    I agree that it’s such a shame. It completely breaks the landscape in two – inside and outside – and reduces the possibilities of wandering, whether you’re a resident or a passer-by like yourself. To be honest, I think these are the kinds of things which just make a problem worse. There’s nothing that shouts ‘worth breaking into’ than a giant chain, or padlock, or gate. It makes me sad that it’s something to advertise too. Not to name and shame, or anything (I know no names in this case), but it reminds me of this which was put up about 15-20 years ago near my parents house.

    Reply

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