Part of broader effort to increase women's safety at night
Poor lighting has increased women's fear of walking at night
March 8, 2023
Wandsworth Council is looking at improving lighting in the borough after being told poor visibility, men’s behaviour and the murder of Sarah Everard added to women’s fear while walking alone at night. Wandsworth Council carried out the consultation to put together a draft night-time strategy to outline a vision for improving experiences in the borough at night.
The council’s executive approved the draft on Tuesday, 7 March to go out for consultation. The strategy makes recommendations to improve the borough from 6pm to 6am to meet everyone’s needs, including putting together a lighting strategy.
Conservative councillor Lynsey Hedges called for more lighting on Wandsworth, Tooting and Clapham commons when discussing the strategy at the council’s finance committee on 1 March.
Councillor Hedges said she had spent years asking residents about their concerns and said, “Certainly after the Sarah Everard tragedy we had an overwhelming number of responses from women… around safety in the Balham and Clapham South area which will not come as a surprise.”
She read out a comment from a woman who lived in Balham which said, “There is a point on the common with woodland that is extremely poorly lit. As young women, we are genuinely terrified to walk there at night. We would love additional lighting.” Councillor Hedges said the comment was “just one of many we’ve had”.
Council documents on the strategy read, “In our survey and our face-to-face discussions women felt disproportionately unsafe in the night-time when compared to men. Many did not like walking alone at night and felt poor lighting and the behaviour of men added to fear, as well as the recent murder of Sarah Everard.”
The strategy includes a recommendation to “improve street lighting through well-considered interventions that respond to the local area, prioritising locations that night-time users tell us are problematic, ensuring they are creative and welcoming as well as practical”. It suggests the council produce a lighting strategy and work with the planning and highways departments, with delivery in the short or medium term.
Steve Diamond, head of economic development at the council, told the committee, “Safety is essential to the strategy, especially women, low-income, disabled and vulnerable people and the tragic deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa are obviously central to public interest in this and certainly featured in a lot of the consultation and engagement.
“But we also want to celebrate the night – the exciting things that it already offers and could offer and drawing together practical recommendations for improving the night-time to meet the needs of everyone, including businesses.”
Councillor Hedges said she was pleased to see recommendations on lighting and asked, “Does that lighting include Wandsworth Common, Tooting Common and collaboration with Lambeth Council concerning Clapham Common given that many of our residents, in particular women, travel through those commons?”
Labour councillor Stephen Worrall welcomed the strategy’s emphasis on safety but warned installing lighting everywhere and encouraging footfall could be “threatening” to animals.
Blanka Hay, local growth manager at the council, said the biodiversity officer had read the recommendations and assessments would be carried out if more lighting was put in.
Ms Hay said officers were analysing results from the consultation so far and the next stage was consulting on town centres. She said, “We, at the moment, haven’t got recommendations for the town centres in particular but that’s the next stage.
“So following consultation on this key themes around we’re going to have drill down into the town centres and the areas around them to see what people are suggesting and as long as we can sort of balance the need of biodiversity with what people are suggesting we would definitely recommend lighting within the commons if we can.”
Addressing comments made about Clapham Common after the meeting, a Lambeth Council spokesperson said, “As part of the Safer Spaces 3 funding package we installed some 40 additional lamp columns on the common, closing up all gaps in lighting coverage on the surfaced paths. There are hundreds of lamp columns across the common and we’ve also installed CCTV where we were able to do so.”
Wandsworth Council was contacted for further comment ahead of publication.
Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter