ENTRY #415

Guardians of the Common by Andy Belfield


As the city retreats to Capital investment and land becomes increasingly commodified, we ‘the commoners’ must seek new methods of obtaining private land for the common good.

As land value goes up so does rent, leaving a large proportion of society seeking informal and cheaper modes of living. Since 2010 property guardianship has emerged in the UK as one alternative. Operating in the intermediary between vacancy and development, guardians are moved into secure premises from squatters and disrepair. But this system exploits the housing crisis. Charging tenants rent whilst demanding they provide a service free of charge (security), and simultaneously removing their basic human rights through complex legal agreements.

The proposition relies on the redefinition of Guardian, Architect and Citizen as a collective common practice, to convert these vacant assets in sites of social production.

Through powers handed down by the 2011 Localism Act, citizens can position themselves to claim power over local planning policy. The proposed model seeks to replace the exploitative Guardianship agencies with the citizen lead Neighbourhood Forum. Offering potential guardians free accommodation in return for their time. Working as agents on site to implement the Neighbourhood forums strategy, drawn up by an architect embedded in the area. Once these roots begin to spread the Forum can begin to use it’s legislative power to negotiate with the council over the future of the site, offering an alternative to the existing model of top-down development. Beginning a dialogue between local councils and citizens over the future of their neighbourhoods and potential sites of the common.


This proposal is a reflection on the past 6 months of work, fighting to protect a space of the Urban Common.

It represents both existing groups and organisations in Deptford, whilst speculating on how this process could differ to produce more land for the common. Thanks to all these groups that made the submission possible.

Assembly SE8 – Ella, Owen, Ross and Drew. An artists collective and property guardians who opened a wildlife garden for the benefit of the public.

Deptford Neighbourhood Action – A group of passionate Deptfordains who came together out of a shared ambition to make Deptford better and retain it’s unique identity and spaces.

Friends of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden – Who fight everyday to protect their slice of the common.

Andy Belfield – An architect in waiting, who had time to do these drawings.

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