guide4 min read

How to create safer parks

Parks play a crucial role in promoting physical and mental wellbeing, bringing people together, and enhancing community spirit.

In response to local councils’ efforts to encourage people to spend more time outdoors, numerous local authorities have taken action. In London, the “Parks for London” initiative has been implemented with the objective of enhancing park accessibility, improving their quality, and raising awareness about the advantages of spending time in green spaces. Likewise, Manchester City Council has introduced the “Parks for Everyone” strategy to ensure that parks cater to the needs of all residents. While in Birmingham, the “Active Parks” program offers complimentary fitness classes and activities in various parks throughout the city, aiming to motivate individuals to engage in physical exercise and enhance their overall health and well-being.

However, safety remains a key concern, particularly in parks without lighting. In London, there were over 600 recorded crime incidents in parks during 2021, including theft, robbery, and sexual assault. Including the case of Sheraze, a woman who was attacked in a Watford park, in March 2023, who reported (in this BBC article) that brighter lighting could have stopped her assault or at least helped passers-by see the perpetrator.

Furthermore, a survey by the Office for National Statistics found that four out of five UK women (82%) reported feeling very or fairly unsafe after dark in parks or open spaces compared with two out of five men (42%). This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

The Lighting Journal July 2023 reported on Elettra Bordonaro’s, co-founder of lighting design consultancy, Light Follows Behaviour, presentation which emphasised the role that light and artificial lighting can play in creating safer spaces and creating the perception of safer spaces. Bordonaro recommended that by using clear wayfinding and taking a holistic approach to park safety, local authorities can create spaces that are safe and welcoming for everyone.

Lighting for safety

These statistics suggest lighting plays a significant role in after-hours park use and users’ safety, but if the lighting hasn’t been installed to date, this is a costly undertaking for councils, set against a climate of budget pressures and increasing energy costs.

In general, the cost of installing traditional lighting infrastructure in a park can be high, as it often requires significant civil engineering work, such as laying cables and trenching. According to a report by the UK government’s Department for Communities and Local Government, the average cost of installing traditional lighting infrastructure can range from £30,000 to £150,000 per kilometre, depending on the project’s complexity.

So how can local authorities keep their residents feeling safe in their green spaces while balancing the cost and environmental impact of traditional lighting solutions?

A balanced approach

One solution is solar lighting. The cost of installing off-grid solar-powered lighting solutions can be significantly lower as they do not require cabling or trenching. For example, in Prospect Park in Tower Hamlets, London, the local authority used our Defender 55 solar grid-free streetlights, to cost-effectively light without any civil works. The seven Defender lights installed on 6m columns provide all-night operation, with the lanterns set to operate at 2W all night, boosting to 8W when its PIR detects movement. Read the full case study here.

Traditional Lighting vs Solar Lights

Traditional lighting systems are dependent on the electricity grid, which can result in high energy costs. In contrast, solar lights operate independently of the electrical grid, instead charging from renewable energy from the sun. This fundamental difference offers several advantages that make solar lights an attractive option to improve public safety in outdoor spaces.

Advantages of Solar Lights

Energy Efficiency: Solar lights transform sunlight into electricity through photovoltaic cells, offering the most energy-efficient option for outdoor lighting. This choice bypasses the carbon emissions and energy consumption associated with mains-powered lights. The decision to use solar lights contributes to a more sustainable and greener environment and represents the cutting edge of energy-efficient design. This makes solar lights the optimal choice for those seeking to minimise the carbon footprint of their projects.

Cost Savings: Although solar lights might require a higher upfront investment than traditional lighting, they present substantial cost benefits over time, making them a financially smart choice. With little to no on-going operating costs (as they do not require electricity from the grid), and minimal maintenance, resulting in reduced cost of ownership over their lifespan.

We offer a range of off-grid solar lighting solutions designed specifically for the challenges of British weather. Our off-grid solar lights are designed to meet various lighting requirements, from pathways and cycleways to public parks and housing developments. Learn more about our solutions here.

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