Saturday, July 22, 2006

Lets design out Crime from our Housing Estates

Millbrook and Redbridge
prime examples of inappropriate developments when it comes to 'designing out' crime
Parts of Southampton’s residential estates are not, to use the Home Secretary’s now infamous phrase, ‘fit for purpose’, when it comes to reducing crime and the fear of crime. In May, I stood in the local elections in a Southampton suburb made up largely of 1960s Council estates which was an interesting experience. Built in a pre-car era catering for mainly the traditional nuclear family, the estates are not aging well and are ill-suited to take account of the lifestyle changes that have taken place over the last fifty years.
The big opportunity is where we infill or build new developments on green or brownfield land, to design out crime and to make our communities stronger and safer.
The point is councils, planners, builders and government all have a role to play in using best practise. Sadly, in Southampton reducing crime is barely mentioned in the council’s planning guidelines or the more general ‘local plans’. Council Officers looked at me as if I was crazy when I opposed the closure of a local pub and its replacement with high density housing last May. I was worried about the impact the new development would have on the surrounding community. Design ideas include ensuring that planning rules encourage the construction of homes with private open space, in the knowledge that front gardens can increase security both from burglary and theft of items from doorsteps; reducing the opportunities for vehicle crime by ensuring that householders can park on their driveway, or in adjacent garages, to reduce the opportunities for vehicle crime; and ensuring that households feel part of their community by raising the level of observation of streets and pathways possible from residences. Of course, the causes of crime are many and varied. However, there is growing evidence that the design of housing estates can radically affect the local crime rate.We seriously need to look at the ideas promoted by police chiefs including Hampshire’s Paul Kernaghan. The creation of defensible space and territory; organizing housing areas so that anti-social behaviour is less likely to be ignored; creating space that generalises a sense of ownership, such as front gardens, rather than space which promotes anonymity; and promoting natural surveillance from residents' houses are all common sense solutions. Where these guidelines have been followed, crime has fallen sharply. However, an estate which has incorporated the Government's planning principles - which include restricting parking spaces, opting for narrow streets and wide pavements, and locating garages and parking lots behind buildings - will suffer from an average of six times as much criminal activity according to independent research. Our elected politicians should remember that few things affect people’s quality of life more than crime and the fear of crime and it is the poorest in society who suffer most. It is Labour and the Lib-Dems who have left our housing estates behind in Southampton.


Blogger Praguetory said...

Good on you for placing this on the agenda.

6:01 pm  

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