Projects address women’s fears over safety in public spaces

Charity urges more female-friendly parks

By Matthew Appleby More park keepers, trimmed hedges, clearer sightlines and fenced-off shrubberies are at the top of women’s wish-lists for making parks and other urban spaces feel safer, research has found. In the first of two initiatives, the charity Women’s Design Service (WDS) asked women across Manchester, Bristol and London about the aspects of urban design that made them feel most insecure. The study was backed by the Lottery Community Fund. Now the Greater London Authority has commissioned the charity, which is made up of female architects and planners, to design a tool kit tackling fears about public parks to be distributed to parks managers across the capital. The tool kit will be sent to parks managers in January. It follows work at parks in Islington, Hillingdon, Southwark and Greenwich. Each of the four councils inv-olved agreed to make changes based on recommendations this summer. WDS will reassess them this autumn. Ideas also include better policing, more signage, easier access for prams and more toilets. WDS director Wendy Davis said issues came up when women talked about open spaces and safety revolved around the “virtuous circle — the idea that women feel safer when other people are around. The more you can encourage use, the safer you feel.” A GLA representative said the authority commissioned the work because women feel unsafe in parks, with some people mentioning two stabbings of women joggers in London’s Clissold and Victoria parks in 2003. The city projects’ practical outcomes include a pedestrian tunnel at Northmoor Road in Manchester having its vegetation cut and lighting improved. Chelmsford director of parks services Sue Ireland said: “This is welcome but the issue is not just about women, it’s about making parks more accessible for all.”

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