Note: the small pictures below
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Sainsburys Sign

I'm a photographer, not a terrorist

Why, you may well ask, does this bear a headline probably more suited to the Daily Mail? Unfortunately, some things which happen to us you couldn’t make up.

It was one evening earlier this month I found myself trying to catch a bus home from High Wycombe. The next was in forty minutes so, with some time to kill, I went for a stroll armed with only a mobile phone.

The first thing I noticed was the brand-spanking-new Sainsbury’s whose sign doesn’t seem to have been working properly since it opened. Why can't they get someone to fix it? Why?

Turning from the front of Sainsbury’s and looking across the road to Eden, I see that Marks & Spencer looks somewhat like a giant trolley bus, which is apt given that its front end is in the bus station. Notice the giant ashtray in the foreground? If I had the time I would visit a carpet store and snag some big cardboard tubes, paint them mostly white and drop them in. No doubt the money ran out before trees were planted in these - there are several. So, lads - we can afford the whacking great stainless steel planters but not the plants to go in them? Well done.

Under the awnings of Sainsbury’s a reflected car is waiting at a red light (of which some say High Wycombe now has too many). It seems to be in the shop. Perhaps the awnings are there to stop you looking up and noticing how hideous it can be when a grocers has its car park on its roof. I didn't think this was a ‘How Ugly Can Your Shop Be?’ competition.

In the foreground of the long-shot of the awnings you can see the lane leading into the bus station. The bus lane is only just wide enough for its curve to allow some buses to pass without clipping the kerb with their nearside rear wheel. How unfortunate it is then that the kerb installed is particularly sharp - car drivers may have discovered that clipping such a kerb can squeeze the tyre between the kerb and its wheel so that the latter acts like scissors and can cut a puncture-inducing chunk from the tyre. Ask the bus drivers. Many will tell you the lane is too narrow, the kerb too sharp. They tell me the bus station is far too small too, but that’s another story.

I passed through the bus station and found myself in amongst the shops. Eden is not entirely an enclosed shopping centre; only that bit that was the Octagon and the Bus Station have doors and make you feel as if you are indoors, the remainder is really an outdoor shopping precinct. To quote my dentist’s nurse - who may be more used to enclosed shopping centres - why did they put all those shops in a wind tunnel? This may be due to budget but it is also because Eden’s malls follow the routes of old public roads and are named after them. The bulk of Eden has no doors or gates; just a few bollards to keep vehicles out. As there will be 24 hour and 365 day access, the pathways will continue to be a public right of way so we should applaud that. I was trained as a lending banker, not as a lawyer, but do remember learning some simple basic principles of Common Law such as what constitutes a public right of way.

It being a public place, we are all free to take photos, so I did until I was rudely accosted by two members of the centre’s staff (a security person and a suit) who wrongly told me that I was not allowed to take photos in Eden because it’s private. They have a policy and muttered some nonsense about Health and Safety. I told them I was sorry about their policy but it has no basis in law.

If anyone from Eden management objects to the presence of any of the photographs on this page, please get in touch after you have read the guide available about photographers’ rights and I will explain to you about how you seem to want to be able to festoon your centre with CCTV cameras but object to other lawful use of photography in a public place. Contrary to what you are telling your staff, the malls outside the old Octagon are public thoroughfares, not your private property. I find this all particularly galling as I was accosted where the photo at the foot of this page was taken. The pavement alongside Tesco has been a public thoroughfare since Tesco was built, long before the idea for Eden was germinated or that we realised we needed so many coffee shops. It goes without saying that you have similar photos on your own web site and the Store Guide pdf that you provide would provide far better intelligence for terrorists/theives/paedophiles or whoever else you think may be plotting against your paranoid selves.

One last thing: is it just me or is Eden a silly name for a shopping precinct. Anything less like a beautiful garden is hard to imagine.

Tim Hill, October 2009
Marks and Spencer
Sainsburys with reflection
Sainsburys Sun Shades and Car Park on top
Looking south along Newlands Meadow
Eden Place
Eden Place, reverse and many other angles
The Guide

  12/2011 BBC News - Metropolitan Police compensate parade-ban photographer

Earlier edition: April 2009