Vandal-proofing public spaces punishes everybody, say experts

Strategies to displace anti-social activity "ineffective"

Strategies to “design-out crime” such as cutting down bushes and installing vandal-proof street furniture can damage the role of a public space, experts have claimed. In their recent report, The Social Value of Public Spaces, Ken Worpole and Katharine Knox have warned designers and planners that stripping public spaces of features vulnerable to vandalism can ruin their value as public amenities. Worpole said: “Cutting down trees and bushes and taking out street furniture in misused public spaces punishes everybody. “Strategies to solve antisocial behaviour by moving it elsewhere are likely to be ineffective and risk worsening local tensions.” The authors claim that when “marginal groups” such as young people, “drinkers” and even prostitutes are deterred from using an area, the space’s traditional role as a place where different lifestyles and behaviour are tolerated and co-exist is destroyed. Warpole said: “Public spaces should be inclusive, provide opportunities for exchange and give users the ability to shape what happens there.” He and Knox argue that the success of a public space is not solely in the hands of the architect, urban designer or town planner. The authors cite the newly designed Callaghan Square in Cardiff as an example of a public space that has failed the local community, saying: “At certain times it struggled to retain people and was empty and soulless.”

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