As Love Parks Week launches, research reveals that 3.5 million women in the UK – around 13% –are put off using parks over fears about safety.
Across the country, more than 27,000 parks and green spaces – from small, community spaces to world-famous parks – provide a vital space that is free to access for people of all ages and backgrounds – a place to socialise, exercise and enjoy nature.
But for millions of women the fear of intimidation or violence in parks – from unwelcome remarks to sexual assault – or experience of it means they are less likely to use them and feel the benefits.
According to research carried out by YouGov on behalf of Keep Britain Tidy earlier this year, 13% of women disagreed with the statement that they felt safe in their local park. Among younger women aged 25-34, this figure rose to 40%.
Research already shows that women and girls do less exercise than men and boys so barriers such as safety fears compound the problem.
This Love Parks Week (28 July-06 August), Keep Britain Tidy is calling for action at every level so that all women and girls feel safe and confident to use their local green spaces.
It is encouraging local authorities and landowners to take on board the recommendations from a recent report to improve access and security.
Keep Britain Tidy has worked as part of the Safer Parks Consortium, which comprises Leeds University; the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin; West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Make Space for Girls, to produce in-depth guidance on how to make parks and public spaces safer and more accessible for women and girls.
Recommendations include better lighting, toilet facilities, visible security, the organisation of dedicated events for women and greater staff presence.
‘We know that if women and girls feel unsafe, they are less likely to use, enjoy and benefit from our vital green spaces – and that will no doubt have knock-on effects on health and wellbeing.
‘As the operator of the Green Flag Award for high-quality parks, we believe parks and play spaces should be designed and managed in a way that makes them welcoming to women and girls. If our parks are safe for women and girls, they are safe for everyone.
‘Good design and good management is key to creating green spaces that are inclusive, accessible and safe for everyone in the community and we would urge everyone with a role to play in managing and supporting our parks to follow our new guidance.’
ALLISON OGDEN-NEWTON OBE
Chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy
Keep Britain Tidy is asking members of the public to write to their MP to call on the government to provide adequate resources to ‘level up’ our parks for women and girls.
People can also support the campaign on social media by using the hashtags #LoveParks and #SaferParks.
‘We have to break down the barriers to women and girls using and feeling safe in parks. Our recommendations, informed by interviews with over 100 women and girls, include 10 principles for design and management which can help decision-makers to enact real change. It’s great to see that Keep Britain Tidy is making this the focus of Love Parks Week.’
DR ANNA BARKER
Associate Professor in Criminal Justice & Criminology at the University of Leeds