Plans to light up Cardiff’s parks – but problems highlighted

PLANS to light up parks in Cardiff to improve safety following a spate of violent incidents have been welcomed.

But problems with the plan were highlighted, including the uncertain cost of lighting, its impact on wildlife, and the carbon emissions from the increase in energy use.

Cardiff council recently announced plans to install lighting in the city’s parks, as well as a raft of other potential safety measures.

The move follows an alleged murder and vandalism spree in Bute Park last year, as well as arson attacks in parks elsewhere in the city. Women’s safety at night is also an issue increasingly in the spotlight following the deaths of Sarah Everard and Ashling Murphy.

The council’s cabinet heard a report on Thursday, January 20, about the safety measures considered, and the issue was also discussed during an economy and culture scrutiny committee meeting on January 19. Councillors welcomed the plans but also raised some concerns.

During the cabinet meeting, Councillor Peter Bradbury, cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: “There’s a spotlight on this issue, particularly with Sarah Everard and Ashling Murphy, and these are massive concerns. People should feel safe in our parks, no matter what time of day or year. We’re determined to find a way forward to ensure that happens.”

Lighting is planned for main commuter routes through some parks in Cardiff, with a trial likely to take place along Cycleway 4, which runs through Sophia Gardens and Pontcanna Fields to Western Avenue.

Details of exactly how much lighting and where have not yet been decided, but should be clearer after the council sets its budget in the next couple of months.

As well as lighting, CCTV cameras could be installed in a few locations in Bute Park, the gates to Roath Park and Parc Cefn Onn will be locked again at night, and volunteer groups like Friends of Bute Park will be given more support.

Bute Park saw several violent attacks last year, including the alleged murder of Dr Gary Jenkins, the rape of a young woman, and a vandalism spree which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage. Campaigners also held a march to ‘reclaim Bute Park’, demanding action to improve safety.

Elsewhere, the issue of women’s safety has become more prominent following the murder of Sarah Everard in London by a police officer last year, and the alleged murder of Ashling Murphy in Ireland this month while she was out running.

On Wednesday, January 19, hundreds of people in Cardiff joined a vigil in Grange Gardens in memory of Ms Murphy, with other vigils held in Ireland and the UK.

Councillors welcomed the plans to make Cardiff’s parks safer. But several concerns were raised.

During the cabinet meeting, Cllr Rhys Taylor, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “Women’s safety is an issue that comes up on the doorstep, filling our inboxes and on our social media. It’s finally being brought through policy and that’s really welcomed.”

During the scrutiny meeting, Cllr Iona Gordon said: “Because of the nature, our parks need to be dark at night. I don’t think we should just be lighting up all our parks just to enable safe walking and jogging.

“I do think it’s very important where we have paths that link communities, for example the path that goes from the turning circle on Cathedral Road to Western Avenue, and that’s always been lit up.

“There is a good reason to have lighting where you have people walking from A to B. But I think we need to be very sensitive about how much lighting we put in our parks and we don’t want to disturb the nature, like birds nesting or sleeping at night.”

More details will be available in the next few months, after the council sets its budget, according to Cllr Bradbury. He added whichever lighting used will be environmentally friendly, and will focus on commuter routes.

He said: “This is an issue that’s concerning. It’s a live issue with debate in the community. In the budget last year we increased in real terms the spending on parks for the first time in over two decades. But I can’t go into what specifics are [currently] being discussed as part of the budget-setting process.

“Main commuter routes need to be looked at as a priority. Key for me is whatever lighting we put in has to be environmentally friendly so we’re not disturbing nature. I would love to see Trelai Park lit in some parts, so people could walk from one end from Penally Road safely into Colin Way without any issues. However in other areas it’s not suitable.”

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