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Collaborative Leeds Project Lighting Up Woodhouse Moor

Woodhouse Moor has often struggled with appearance issues over the years, having been involved in gang-related violence and unprovoked assaults on the public there has been an ongoing push towards the target of making Hyde Park, Woodhouse Moor, safer.


The lack of lighting has been an ongoing cause for concern with the public for over thirty years, an excerpt from a council meeting focusing on the creation of pathways and cycle paths from 1992 “An unlit track across the middle of Woodhouse More is not a feasible proposition. The safety of both cyclists and pedestrians would be jeopardised.”


In 2016, a disgruntled member of the public on the council’s forum page stated, “ I am left completely amazed why you have not agreed to the placement of lighting on Hyde Park Leeds after the number of incidents that have occurred. I hope you are aware that you could be held liable for lack of effort in trying to improve the safety of persons using this park after being aware of the dangers.”


This anger towards the council began to bubble up among the local students, leading them to take part in a protest to draw attention to the issue. 


Although street lighting seems like it would solve the majority of safety issues that the public has with the moor PC Matt Guy went on record in 2016 stating that “One stream of light through the centre of the park would attract crime rather than prevent it.”


He went on to talk about how the lights would act as a way for criminals to highlight targets easily and then slip into the dark patches for cover. “Lights can cause a false perception of safety and if more people are walking through the park at night there is likely to be an increase in criminal activity”


With seemingly every attempt to build awareness and attention around the issue falling flat, a 2012 petition to install lights and CCTV cameras in Woodhouse Moor, signed over 1,400 times being denied, protests being ignored and finally another petition in late 2021 being dismissed it seemed that the hope of lights being installed to the park were beginning to die dim. 


Until recently, when the University of Leeds School Of Law students conducted a research project into the safety of women in public settings and ended up finding out that many women deem parks unsafe at night.


Anna Barker is an Associate Professor in Criminal Justice & Criminology at the University of Leeds who completed this research. By interacting with local women and girls she was able to identify some key barriers that prevent women and girls “from using their local parks, including inadequate access routes, poorly lit areas, and male-dominated public spaces that feel intimidating and exclusive.”


This inspired both Leeds City Council and Leeds University to jump into action. Partnering with Street Space, a collaborative design social enterprise that strives “to create opportunities for authentic participation, enabling local people to play an active role in the creation of spaces where they feel they belong.”, to create the WoW parks project.


The WoW Parks project is a co-creative public art project. Figuring out how to design a solution to the issue by working collaboratively with the local community, bringing public art and an overpowering sense of community to Woodhouse Moore this project aims to create a more welcoming environment in the park for women and girls.


The idea of women being forced out of the area to guarantee their safety is what inspired this project:


“women and girls restrict their use of parks and alter their behaviour to keep themselves safe. This can have a significant impact on their lives, and their ability to move freely around our towns and cities as parks provide key connecting routes, to socialise, improve well-being and engage in physical activity and exercise in parks, especially when alone.”


The Street Space collective has begun holding a series of pop-ups, talks & walks in the park and a range of creative activities for local residents to get involved in the creation and design process. 


As of right now, there are no set design plans for the lighting installation but hopefully, they will be ready for the public eye by late spring or summer, ideally to be completed by Autumn 2024.


After years of debating it appears that finally, Woodhouse Moor will have its safeguarding issues squashed in the summer of 2024. This new chapter for Hyde Park and Woodhouse Moor creates an opportunity for the community, local creatives and the council to work together to push towards a common goal. 


Although it might have taken its time to be developed and taken on board by the council this project represents the culmination of struggle, perseverance and determination of over thirty years.


Lighting the way to a better future Leeds City Council has shown that the way we move forward is together.


Editorial Illustration by James Lewis, jlaemweiss Illustration

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