Dr Anna Barker leads study published on the safety of women and girls in parks in West Yorkshire

Parks in West Yorkshire should be better designed and managed so that women and girls feel safe throughout the day and after dark, according to the new study.

A team of researchers at the University of Leeds led by Dr Anna Barker, an Associate Professor in Criminal Justice & Criminology in the School of Law interviewed more than a hundred women and girls from across the county and found that most of them believed their local parks were unsafe. More than half felt they were very unsafe. 

The study, which was funded by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, concludes that feeling vulnerable in parks is a barrier that needs to be urgently addressed to ensure that women and girls feel able to use, enjoy and benefit from them.  

Everyone has the right to feel safe in a recreational space, in any space.

Alison Lowe, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime for West Yorkshire 

Dr Barker said, “Overall, we found that women and girls want parks and play spaces to be better designed and managed to be well-used, sociable places that offer a range of activities and facilities that are more welcoming to them.   

“This needs to be the focus of funding and interventions in order to break down the barriers to women and girls using and feeling safe in parks.”  

The report found that there is not always agreement about what makes parks feel safe but there was consensus among the women interviewed that well-used parks, especially with the presence of other women, felt safer, and that organised group activities could extend their use of these spaces, even after dark.   

The report calls for more central Government funding to improve the safety of women in parks and for local councils to make women and girls’ safety integral to their park design and management plans.  

The team is now engaged in follow-up work with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Keep Britain Tidy and the charity Make Space for Girls, to develop new guidance for the design and management of parks to make them feel safer and more welcoming to women and girls.  

Read more on the University of Leeds’ news page. 

Read the study’s findings in full.