The Manifesto Club has released a map detailing the 435 zones across London where normally legal activities are prohibited.
The map lists five kinds of activity that are, while ostensibly legal, are subject to restrictions in certain zones. They include:
- Dog-walking; taking your pooch for a stroll in one of the banned areas can lead to a fine or prosecution (219 zones);
- Gathering: in a ‘dispersal zone’ the police have power, under the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act, to ask groups of two or more to leave an area for 24 hours or risk arrest (32 zones);
- Protesting: since anti-war protestors were evicted earlier this year, many areas around Parliament and Whitehall are now off-limits to protests;
- Drinking alcohol: police officers can swipe your hooch and arrest you if you don’t give it up freely (74 zones);
- Leafleting: handing out a leaflet in one of these areas without a licence can lead to a fine or prosecution (110 zones).
According to the president of the Manifesto Club, Josie Appleton, the map, which has largely been compiled from Freedom of Information Act requests,
shows that ordinary freedoms and legal protections have been suspended in large areas of public space. An everyday activity can now be an offence if you do it on the wrong street.
On a borough-by-borough level, it’s best to avoid handing out flyers around Kensington & Chelsea (43 no-leafleting zones) while the most dog-unfriendly boroughs would appear to be Haringey and Islington (67 dog exclusion zones apiece). Of London’s 33 local authorities, 14 have borough-wide alcohol restriction zones — though the victims are unlikely to be the poor family enjoying a bottle of Chablis with their picnic that the Daily Mail frets over.
With precious little information on the street demarcating these zones, the map suggests that hundreds of innocent people could be unwittingly falling foul of bylaws; the Manifesto Club cites the case of one North Woolwich resident fined after walking her dog without a lead, though this does seem a rare case. But the image of a city whose citizens are treading an ever-narrowing line between their “ordinary freedoms” and the increasing clout of a censorious state should be disturbing for any Londoner.