The UK's biggest civil rights lobby group, Liberty, has launched an attack on BDP's £750 million proposals for the redevelopment of Liverpool's Paradise Street shopping quarter.
The charity has demanded changes to the project's designs and financial arrangements, calling for several of the city's streets to remain open to the public.
It believes the scheme - which involves the replacement of 17ha of city-centre land with a massive retail, residential and commercial development - will result in the closure of several public rights of way. Liverpool councillors have already agreed a deal to hand over control of the roads to the Duke of Westminster's property empire Grosvenor.
But Liberty spokesman Barry Hugill has warned that it is considering legal action if the streets are not immediately handed back to the city council. 'The potential for abuses of civil rights are enormous on this project, ' Hugill told the AJ. 'It is a basic human right to go where you want, when you want.
'There are plenty of rights of way in this area and it seems to me that handing over control to private hands is simply a tool for stopping beggars and skateboarders - sanitising the streets, ' he added. Hugill warned that if the council fails to take back control, Liberty would find someone who has been banned from the development and 'consider supporting a legal action'.
Liverpool City Council - one of the project's major backers - has dismissed the criticism. 'This is just management and maintenance and nothing to be concerned about, ' a spokesman said. 'While it is true one would have to ask permission of Grosvenor for a public demonstration, for example, they would be expected to say yes.
This is nothing like the first time a private company has managed a town or city centre.'