Release date: 14 December 2011
Research published today by the Design Council has, for the first time, highlighted design approaches to high density urban housing developments which can reduce low-level crime, neighbour disputes and antisocial behaviour. Avoiding large rear parking courts, un-overlooked paths and spaces, dealing carefully with corner properties, making parking more intuitive for residents and visitors and lastly not relying on gating a scheme as an off the shelf means to address crime are amongst the elements which are identified in the Design Council study which was commissioned by the Home Office.
The study was run in collaboration with academics from the University of Huddersfield, working with crime reduction experts local police forces
and planning authorities. It looked at a variety of developments in three areas of the country - Greater Manchester, Kent and West Midlands. Its main findings are:
Parking can be a major source of neighbour disputes, anti-social behaviour, and in some cases criminal damage and assault:
- Rear parking courts – are particularly prone to crime especially if they are large and have multiple access points, or give access to the rear of lots of dwellings
- Garages in unusual locations – such as the rear of properties accessed via side lanes or rear access are prone to
Spacial design of the whole scheme, and keeping this consistent, is very important. Particular crime-encouraging elements to avoid include:
- un-overlooked spaces next to boundary fences
- corner properties, if these don’t provide adequate overlooks to both streets
- exposed backs or rear access to properties
- public paths and other access at the rear of properties, or at the side if not overlooked properly
- ‘dead spaces’ attract dumping of unwanted goods, which can lead to antisocial behaviour such as setting fires
Perimeter security and ‘gating’ is not a substitute for good crime-lowering design within a development:
- using gating is not necessarily a means to secure a site. For example within a gated community, large parking courts with access to the rear of many dwellings were found to lead to higher levels of domestic burglary and car crime.
Designers need to plan for consistent and appropriately resourced management and maintenance alongside careful physical design of a scheme:
- It is the combination of consistent physical design quality and well planned and delivered management and maintenance that appears to create the best outcome for residents in terms of their quality of life. In extremis where both elements are absent, the evidence from this research shows problems could quickly arise, particularly in relation to car parking with inter-neighbour disputes escalating into criminal acts of assault and criminal damage.
Researchers conducted detailed site visits to developments to analyse and map specific design features and layouts, examined the recorded
crime in the scheme, and interviewed neighbourhood policing teams and crime prevention advisors.
Minister for Crime Prevention and Antisocial Behaviour Reduction Lord Henley said:
“Home is where we should feel safest and most secure as everyone deserves to live in a neighbourhood free from the fear of crime.
“This research shows that thoughtful design can play a key role in helping to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, and make our communities safer. The study will help community groups, planners and developers understand what they need to consider when building new neighbourhoods.
“The government is keen to support and encourage innovative ideas to help reduce crime, and I am pleased to see that the building industry is playing its part in tackling this issue.”
The crimes the teams looked at included burglary, theft of and from vehicles, robbery, theft from the person, assault and criminal damage.
Although the project did not set out to include anti-social behaviour or neighbour disputes in the research brief, much of the feedback from local
police and planners, particularly during site walk-arounds, showed that such incidents were more common than actual recorded crime events and had resulted in police or local authority resources being used to attend and resolve matters.
Dr Rachel Armitage from the Applied Criminology Centre at the Huddersfield University, who undertook the research, said:
“It is clear from this groundbreaking collaborative project that there are features of individual properties, their boundaries and development layout that act as risk and protective factors. These must be considered at all stages of the planning and development process to minimise crime risk and maximise quality of life. ”
The study’s findings are being published on the Design Council Cabe website www.designcouncil.org.uk/crimeresearch to help communities, local authority planners and developers to work together to ensure that good design and crime reduction are key considerations in future schemes.
David Kester, Chief Executive of Design Council Cabe said:
“Communities are becoming more involved in the design of future developments around them. This ground-breaking study helps equip them to work with developers and planners to put good design at the heart of creating places which are attractive, safe and successful, which has far-reaching social and economic benefits.”
Until now, there has been a lack of evidence about the relationship between the design of what are generally considered to be ‘good’ contemporary urban developments (i.e not poorly-designed 1960s or 1970s estates) and the levels of crime and anti-social behaviour experienced in and around them.
The findings of the study have already been acted upon by leading housing developer Gleeson Homes & Regeneration, which helped advise on the research project. Faye Whiteoak, Design & Development Director of the company said:
“We welcome the research; it provides much needed clarification on the impact of housing design upon crime and has led us to re-assess our design values and produce our own internal security design guide.”
For more information or interview requests please contact Nigel Campbell, Head of Communications, Design Council on 0207 420 5282 / 07825 442339 / email@example.com