Light Up Sandford Park - Petition
Report of the Leader
Richard Newman, petition organiser, was invited to address Council. He informed the meeting that he had submitted his petition requesting all pathways be lit in Sandford Park to Council in February this year. As it comprised 825 signatures it triggered this debate today.
Mr Newman highlighted that the people of Cheltenham are extremely keen for this petition to succeed, and he had been gathering further signatures resulting in 1.3 % of the population of Cheltenham or 1540 people having signed it in total. He emphasised to Members that there was an overwhelming desire for Sandford Park users to feel safer at night.
Sandford Park, as outlined in the council report, was the second most crime ridden in Cheltenham with a spike in criminal activity between 8 and 9 pm. If fewer crimes were reported later at night he believed this was due to the crime assessment statistics as being skewed.
He explained that users were afraid to use their own park after dark not just for fear of attack, but also due to other hazards. Lighting pathways was key to address these types of accidents. In terms of funding this, he questioned the use of public money at Boots Corner, citing the £85k used for improvements at Clarence fountain, rather than public safety in a town centre park. Finally, he invited all Councillors to come and see the hazards and dangers for themselves by meeting at 10 pm outside Wetherspoon’s for a walk through the park.
The Leader highlighted that crime prevention and community safety is a whole town issue and not limited to parks and gardens She referred back to her statement at March Council where she stated that whilst the council does not have control over the wider issues of safety, she confirmed that it should have an active role and that, in order to ensure a meaningful debate, she had arranged a meeting with the PCC, Cheltenham’s MP and GCC and CBC Cabinet Members for Safety. She had reassured Members that the issue of safety was extremely important but could not be achieved by CBC alone- it needed government intervention and work with partners.
The Leader then informed that at the meeting of stakeholders there was agreement that partnership working was vital on the issue of community safety. Critical partners included :
- Gloucestershire Constabulary in terms of enforcement, intelligence and data gathering
- Criminal Justice System
- Education providers
- County Council (Highways)/Borough Council for lighting on highways, CCTV etc
She reported that the actions arising from the meeting included :
- Police and Crime Commissioner and CBC to continue working to develop shared outcomes through the work of Safer Gloucestershire and the Cheltenham CSP and any subsequent bidding activity
- Police and Crime Commissioner to provide data and intelligence on crime trends (including in parks connected to the petition)
- Relevant GCC Cabinet Member to be engaged
- Recognition that other mechanism going through Parliament, such as the Online Safety Bill
In the debate that ensued the following points were made by Members :
- The Friends of Sandford Park had assessed safety issues in the park at night and their contributions were laid out in the officer report. They were supportive of limited additional, low key lighting
- It was recognised that towns and open spaces required areas of darkness for bats and wildlife and increased lighting in some areas can in fact lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour and vandalism
- Some existing lighting in the park was not working. Quick fix improvements within CBC’s responsibility would be carried out, but it was recognised that it was for GCC to light the main pathway in Sandford Park so this would be raised directly with them
- The Friends of Sandford park were commended for carrying out some maintenance in terms of managing vegetation growth
- The strength of feeling evidenced in the petition was recognised as was the need for an effective and acceptable solution. It was suggested that O&S could receive a report back in 6 months’ time on the matter and the Chair of O&S stated that the Chair’s group would consider any request to them
- It was suggested that Mr Newman raise the petition directly with GCC for consideration since street lighting fell within its remit
There being no further comments, the Mayor moved to the vote, where the recommendations were approved.
In respect of Sandford Park:
1. the existing strong relationship between the Council and the Friends of Sandford Park be recognised and they be thanked for their hard work in supporting the maintenance and upkeep of the park working in collaboration with the councils Green Spaces team
2. For the Council to work with the Friends of Sandford Park during volunteer working parties to identify and sensitively manage vegetation to improve security and public safety, whilst also having regard to the work being undertaken by the University of Gloucestershire to survey bat populations in Sandford Park
3. the importance of urban green spaces in providing vital dark space important for the survival of urban fauna and flora be noted.
4. the Cabinet Member Waste, Recycling & Street Services to share this report and liaise with his counterpart at Gloucestershire County Council regarding improvements to existing cycle path lighting in Sandford Park in the context of active travel
In respect of community safety across the borough:
5. the importance of the partnership working between the Council, Gloucestershire Constabulary, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the MP and Gloucestershire County Council be recognised to keep the public safe and work collaboratively on the wider issue of crime prevention and community safety
6. the valuable relationship that the council has with local community groups across the town and local ward councillors be recognised in supporting efforts to keep the public safe.
7. the petitioners be thanked and it be acknowledge that this is a very important issue.
- 2022_06_20_COU_Sandford Park Lighting Petition, item 9. PDF 853 KB
- 2022_06_20_COU_Sandford Park Lighting Petition_App3, item 9. PDF 767 KB