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Democracy, free speech and debate are at the heart of an initiative launched by the Association of Town Centre Mana...
Democracy, free speech and debate are at the heart of an initiative launched by the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) today, to set up speakers' corners in towns and cities across the country.

Launching the initiative, the home secretary Jack Straw stressed the importance of open debate. He said: 'In the UK we sometimes forget how lucky we are to have free speech and what an important part it plays in our modern day life.

'The chance to air opinions, listen to the views of others, informs the way we live, and the way in which our communities develop and ultimately progress.

'The setting up of speakers' corners as proposed by the ATCM is an excellent way of making sure free debate and discussion can continue and be promoted in the safest way possible.

'For some years I have held regular open-air meetings in Blackburn town centre to allow my constituents a direct opportunity to question me as their MP.

'These can be even more rigorous than any John Humphrys or Jeremy Paxman interview.

'Activities and ideas such as these should also play a major part in revitalising our public spaces, involving the whole community in the regeneration of our town centres.'

In the first instance the ATCM will consult as widely as possible, and establish pilot sites to trial the speakers' corners. This will lead to the publication next year of a good practice guide for town centre managers and local authorities.

Alan Tallentire, chairman of the ATCM said: 'As part of the consultation process we are inviting town centre managers to respond to the Home Secretary's challenge and offer to set up pilot sites across the country. We welcome this opportunity to bring additional life and vitality into our public spaces.'


1. As part of the consultation process, ATCM welcomes comments on the

initiative. These should be sent to the following address: The

Association of Town Centre Management, 1 Queen Anne's Gate, London

SW1H 9BT' or they can be emailed to

2. The Association of Town Centre Management was formed in 1991 to

lead the town centre management movement by promoting town centre

management as a formal discipline. Created by public sector

professionals and private sector business people dedicated to

promoting and assisting the successful implementation of town centre

management, it now counts amongst its membership, over 250 town

centre managers.

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