A safer Cambridge: After a decade of student campaigning Parker’s Piece has lighting

Megan Hughes 29 April 2014

After a decade of student-led campaigning, the installation of six new lampposts on Parker’s Piece is to be completed by the end of the week. The £60,000 project, which was hit by power-related delays in January, received unanimous support from councillors in September last year.

The completion of the project comes in the wake of the publication of the Cambridge Speaks Out Report, led by CUSU Women’s Campaign. The survey found that 22% of students feel unsafe in Cambridge at night time, with poor lighting cited as one of the main reasons for their insecurity.

Cambridge University’s Women’s Officer, Lauren Steele, described the development as “an opportunity to improve safety for everyone in our city, but especially women and students.”

      

       Image: Parker's piece at night, Photo Credit: Neil Rickards

In the past, the green area has born witness to crimes of a violent and sexual nature; in 2011, a woman was raped on Parker’s Piece, and there were 57 incidents recorded the following year, including several violent crimes.

A trial of lighting on the Piece, along with a Council-led consultation on the issue, revealed widespread enthusiasm for the project. The survey found that three-fifths of respondents did not feel safe when walking in the area at night, with 76% of those questioned expressing their support of the installation of lighting.

There were some initial concerns that new lighting would impact the character of Parker’s Piece, which has been described as a “beauty spot”. The Council has reassured residents that the lampposts will illuminate the pathways, rather than the grass, and are expected to work in concert with the existing lighting.

      

      Image: Parker's Piece a Beauty spot by day, Photo Credit: Peter Church

Councillor Andrea Reiner, Cambridge City Executive Councillor for Public Places, said that the council had “worked hard to make sure that the design of the lights were appropriate for Parker's Piece”. She also expressed hopes that the new lampposts “will be sympathetic to the area, lighting up the paths while not detracting from this beautiful part of Cambridge”.

A Jesus finalist agreed that lighting needed to be improved in public spaces in Cambridge, citing Christ’s Pieces as an area which often feels unsafe after dark. She argued that it’s not simply a problem of walking about at night, because “in winter, you’d have to stay in after 4pm if you didn’t want to go out after dark.”

An undergraduate from Queen’s highlighted the Backs as an area of Cambridge which could benefit from better lighting. Although she sometimes chose to go there with friends late at night, she conceded that she could “see why people who aren’t there by choice, or on their own, could feel threatened”.