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Public areas in tower blocks often have a poor image and can be an unwelcoming environment for residents and visitors.


This negative image is partly a result of common design flaws, such as inadequate security, poor lighting and badly specified finishes, coupled with inadequate maintenance and cleaning. Poorly managed spaces can attract anti-social behaviour and vandalism which leads to a further deterioration in the quality of the internal environment.
 

Making improvements in the lobby areas can be a very cost-effective way of improving the overall image of the tower block and specifying appropriate materials and fittings that are easy to clean, maintain and replace can help to reduce future running costs. It is also important to identify and remove barriers to access for people with disabilities, parents with children, and the elderly where reasonably possible.


As the existing circulation can be very cramped consider re-planning or extending outside the tower footprint on the ground floor, to create a more welcoming and accessible entrance.

 

REFURBISHMENT OPTIONS

 Basic

Maintenance of surrounding spaces 
Apply anti-climb paint

Defensive planting with prickly shrubs
Neighbourhood Wardens

Secured by Design

Good

Provide cycle parking facilities

Carry out a crime prevention survey

Provide secure external storage areas

 Exemplary

Extend boundary away from entrance

 

Maintenance of the spaces immediately around a tower block should be a part of any management plan for that block. What will need to be done will depend very much on the nature of those spaces.

 

Social housing estates are all too often some of the worst urban landscapes. Research suggests that there is a strong correlation between economic and environmental deprivation. Poorer communities tend to live in more polluted, less green, locations. The quality of open spaces within and around social housing estates has declined dramatically since their creation, to the effect that many are in a state of neglect, under-used, or have even become no-go areas.

 

What needs to be done

The first step should be to get a clear understanding of the real problems and of what residents would like to see happen. Getting their views is important but it may also be worth offering some alternatives. If they are worried about crime they may just want flat grass and car parking: they may never have considered the potential social value of the space.

 

It is also important to think about maintenance and enhancement separately. Whatever enhancement is planned there will be a need for maintenance and some maintenance will be under way at present.  The employees or company responsible for that maintenance will be important people to involve in the discussion.

 

The key point on maintenance is to have a clear plan and a contract which shows how the objectives in that plan can be delivered. It is important to find out exactly how is responsible for keeping which areas clean and tidy. Often this will depend on which bits of land are owned by whom or are the responsibility of specific council departments. Streets may be cleaned by different teams to those working on green spaces.

 

With this issue comes the question of who will deliver the maintenance. There are three or four choices:

 

·         The local authority will have street cleaners working in the areas and grounds maintenance staff. If it is a local authority block they may well be responsible at present and may be the default option. The challenge is to make sure that there is an integrated service and that there are not areas left uncleaned.

·         Services may be contracted out to a private company. Again, it is important to be sure that the exact work to be done and the areas covered are clearly specified.

·         If the block has passed into social landlord control then they may be responsible for some areas and the council for other spaces. This can cause problems.

·         Finally maintenance around the block can be done by a residents organisation, especially if there is a TMO. They are likely to have the highest stake in making sure the areas looks attractive and user-friendly.

 

Other considerations

  • Street furniture such as chairs can be popular in some circumstances. These will also need to be looked after.

  • Play spaces may not need expensive equipment but they do need basic safety planning: the National Childrens Bureau has material on this.

 

Benefits

  • Improve image of social housing estates

  • Reduce anti social behaviour and crime

  • Provide amenity

Typical Cost

□  n/a

Funding opportunities:
□  n/a

Also see:

□  Residents Involvement

More information:

□  National Children's Bureau

Suppliers:

□  www.parkviewlandscapes.co.uk

To register as a supplier click here...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Crime prevention survey with residents and local police may be a good starting point for all security improvements. It can help you understand and be clear about the specific problems, from the viewpoints of the landowners, the police, and the residents. Once this is done then you can start to look at how they can be ‘designed out’. You may also wish to apply for a ‘Secured by Design’ Award (see relevant sheet).

 

What needs to be done

 

First you will need to get the support of everyone involved. Make contact with the local police. You should seek to get the involvement of both the local ‘beat officer’ who will know the area and a Crime Prevention Officer (CPO). There may also be a Police Architectural Liaison Officer (ALO) but this person may also be the CPO. Talk also with the residents organisation and the landlords’ relevant officer. Caretaking and security staff should also ideally be involved.

 

Set a time when all representatives can make it. Think about the time carefully: if young people are an issue should the survey be done after school? It should be done in daylight so that people can feel safe to go everywhere.

 

Start with an introductory talk from the police and designers: explain what this is about and how it fits in to the overall refurbishment plans. Let the residents help set the itinerary: they will know the problem areas. Give everyone a notebook or clipboard and have someone taking photos where appropriate. Make sure someone form the refurbishment team is taking full notes.

 

Police constable Sharon Haye

Benefits

  • Reduction of opportunities for crime and anti-social behaviour to occur

Typical Cost

□  n/a

Funding opportunities:
□  n/a

Also see:

□  Apply anti-climb paint

□  Defensive planting with prickly shrubs
□  Neighbourhood Wardens

□  Secured by Design

More information:

□  Crime reduction website

□  Metropolitan police

Suppliers:

□  n/a

To register as a supplier click here...

 

 

If security is a particular problem around a tower block or estate then it may be desirable to introduce security patrols. These may be done by council staff but are often contracted out to private companies. If there is no concierge scheme these may provide a less satisfactory alternative.

 

However there is another alternative. Neighbourhood Wardens provide a highly visible, uniformed, semi-official presence in residential and public areas with the aim of reducing crime and fear of crime, deterring anti-social behaviour, fostering social inclusion and caring for the environment. This is a scheme developed by the ODPM that has been functioning since 2001. Their overall purpose is to improve quality of life and contribute to the regeneration of an area.

 

The wardens have a number of roles depending on local needs, and there are three types of warden programme. General Neighbourhood Wardens do a range of work such as:

  • Promoting community safety and assisting with environmental improvements, such as litter, graffiti, dog fouling and housing.

  • They also contribute to community development and provide a link between local residents, key agencies such as the local authority and the police.

  • Wardens engage well with local residents. For example many schemes have organised 'litter picks' with young people, helped set up football teams and visited schools. Wardens are providing an information service to the public. Others are escorting and providing a visiting service for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the disabled and victims of crime.

There are also Street Wardens: these are a more localised scheme and are often run by housing associations and local councils. There are also Street Crime Wardens in some high-crime areas (often city centres) and these are run by the police.

What needs to be done

 

Security patrols can usually be set up fairly rapidly by a local council or housing association. These will usually patrol agreed areas at set times. Some towers have actually located security staff in block foyers at problem periods.

 

Setting up a Neighbourhood Warden scheme will take longer but may be more effective and prove more popular with local people. This will need to be done in association with the police and local council. The ODPM website www.neighbourhood.gov.uk will provide full information.

 

It is important that any such development is done in close association with residents groups.

 

Benefits

  • Reduce crime and the fear of crime,

  • Boost resident satisfaction

  • Reduce cut vandalism

Typical Cost

□  n/a

Funding opportunities:
□  n/a

Also see:

□  Apply anti-climb paint

□  Defensive planting with prickly shrubs

□  Crime prevention survey
□  Secured by Design

More information:

□  www.neighbourhood.gov.uk  

□  Crime reduction website

□  Metropolitan police

Suppliers:

□  n/a

To register as a supplier click here...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where designing out the problem from the outset is not an option, anti-climb paint can be a very effective remedial way to provide perimeter security without introducing unsightly physical barriers.

 

The paint is thickly applied and never sets. It remains in a gel form that makes climbing any surface coated with it extremely difficult. As a further deterrent it is also very messy, contaminating any surface that it touches such as skin or clothing. Typical applications are:

 

·         Wall Tops

·         Down-pipes

·         Railings

·         Lighting / CCTV poles

 

As the paint can be messy and difficult to remove, it is important to avoid the chance of any accidental contact. Most guidance suggests restricting the use of the paint to areas above head height a minimum of 2m above ground level.

 

When using anti-climb paint it is also important to be aware of the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 which gives a duty of care to any occupier to take all reasonable steps to prevent injury to any person on their property. This Act applies even when the person is acting unlawfully. If anti-climb paint is intended for use on a boundary wall or fence facing a public highway then the Highways Act 1980 also states that reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that no injury is caused to those using the highway.

 

Given the duty of care required by law, it is essential to display signs warning of the presence of anti-climb paint. It is a general view that clearly displaying high visibility signs at approximately 3 to 4 metre intervals along any boundary would give adequate warning.

 

 

Other considerations

 

Alternative perimeter defence systems

Where anti-climb paint is not appropriate other perimeter defence systems should be considered. Barbed wire, rotating barriers and spiked collars are alternative options, although their explicitly defensive visual appearance can create a negative impression in public spaces. These types of defences must not be used when they could be a potential danger to children. Fences or walls should never be topped with items such as carpet gripper, nails or broken glass.

  Anti Climb Paint sign

Benefits

  • Cost effective way to remedially improve perimeter security

  • Potentially less visual impact than alternative systems

  • Safe and easy to apply with no volatile solvents

Typical Cost

□  Anti crime paint: £20-£30/m2

Funding opportunities:
□  n/a

Also see:

□  Defensive planting with prickly shrubs

□  Crime prevention survey
□  Neighbourhood Wardens

□  Secured by Design

More information:

□  Home security tips

Suppliers:

□  www.decoratingdirect.co.uk

□  www.nwepaints.co.uk

To register as a supplier click here...

 

 

The principle of using thorny shrubs to protect property is a simply and cost effective concept.

 

However, defensive planting is not just about prickly plants it is also about putting the right kind of plant in the right place, often in combination with other barriers such as fencing, walls or trellis. Plants with foliage that appears difficult to climb over or through can also present a strong visual deterrent to intruders.

 

There are many varieties of prickly plants that have the appropriate combination of impenetrability and attractiveness, for example some common hawthorn, gorse and rose bushes. Consult with a landscape designer to select the right plants for the particular context. Make sure that any varieties chosen are non-poisonous, particularly if the planting is near areas that may be used by children. It is important to consider the mature height of any defensive planting to avoid compromising surveillance sight lines or blocking views from windows.

 

Consider defensive planting with prickly shrubs in the following areas:

 

·         Below Ground floor dwelling windows and balconies

·         At the site boundary in combination with walls or fencing

·         In open spaces where loitering and anti-social behaviour occurs 

 

 

Other considerations

 

Blank facades

As areas adjacent to blank facades or service areas tend to be less well overlooked, they can attract anti-social behaviour and vandalism. Consider climbing plants on blank façade areas as a natural defense against graffiti attack and planting beds at the base of the wall to deter loitering.

 

Identity

Where there are a number of identical tower blocks in close proximity, as well as being a useful defensive tool, a new landscaping scheme can also be a cost-effective way to give each tower blocks a unique and individual character. Creative landscaping design and well-maintained grounds can contribute significantly to improving the public perception of the tower.

 

Benefits

  •  Cost effective and attractive way of preventing unwanted access and loitering

  • Increases natural habitats and bio-diversity within the site

  • Can help to create a new sense of identity for the tower block

Typical Cost

□  Planting prickly plants inside the fence line and below window: £20-£30/m2 

Funding opportunities:
□  n/a

Also see:

□  Apply anti-climb paint

□  Crime prevention survey
□  Neighbourhood Wardens

□  Secured by Design

More information:

  www.shrubs.co.uk/police.htm

Suppliers:

□  Defensive planting

To register as a supplier click here...

 

Secure external storage areas

 

Many residents will have large items that they don’t want to have in their flats. The most obvious of these is bicycles. Cycling needs to be encouraged but lack of space to keep bicycles if often quoted as a deterrent.

 

Other large items might include prams, trucks, furniture not in current use etc. A storage area for each flat is desirable but these have a history of problems. They are often poorly maintained, they can be prone to vandalism and break-ins, and they may feel unsafe and unattractive. In some cases they are being abandoned and the building shell converted into other facilities (see ‘social facilities’), but if storage spaces work they will be a valuable asset.

 

What needs to be done

The first step in deciding to build (or improve) storage spaces is to be clear what exists at present, how it is used and what people think. It will be important consult with residents, including both those who use any such space and those who do not.

 

The amount of ground space available is likely to be a key factor in deciding what to do. Providing a space for every flat will be expensive and take up a lot of space. It may be worth recognising that not every flat will use the space and plan accordingly.

 

Security will be a key consideration. This will include proper lighting and perhaps CCTV if that is installed in the block. Ideally the storage area should only be accessible from inside the block but this can be difficult, although the conversion of ground floor flats might eb one way to do this.

 

An ideal system will also have an individual door, opening to the outside for each storage unit. Indoor areas involve corridors between the units that may be hard to keep safe and secure. Wire mesh cages are also problematic: people can see what is inside them and this may be more likely to lead to attempted thefts. Storage units should thus be properly walled.

 

If this type of space is not feasible for reasons of cost or space then some form of cycle storage may still be an option. At its most basic this may simply be a covered area with strong cycle racks, although this should also be security-lit and covered by CCTV if it is in an area where theft is a problem.

 

Other considerations

 

Storage areas need to be maintained and their use managed. If flats are to have a lockable space then keys will need to be issued and tracked. This may be a lot more feasible if there is an estate office or TMO base within the block or nearby.

 

A storage space for cycles and prams inside a block can be a good use for any converted space assuming security can be maintained (e.g. by a concierge). Access can be via key or keypad.

 

Benefits

Adequate and secure storage will make flats more desirable: good cycle facilities will make people more likely to consider this option for journeys to work, school etc.

Typical Cost

□  n/a

Funding opportunities:
□  n/a

Also see:

□  n/a

More information:

□  Building Regulations Part M

□  BS 8300:2001 section 8.4

Suppliers:

□  n/a

To register as a supplier click here...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secured by Design

 

Secured by Design is a UK Police initiative supporting the principles of 'designing out crime' by use of effective crime prevention and security standards for a range of applications. Research shows that Secured by Design can reduce burglary and car crime by 50% and criminal damage by 25%.

 

Secured by Design achieves a reduction of crime risk by combining minimum standards of physical security and well-tested principles of natural surveillance and defensible space. Building and refurbishment work needs to be done in line with specific SBD requirements. There are a range of Design Guides available, which can be downloaded from the website (see ‘more information’).  It is essential that consultation takes place at the earliest opportunity, preferably at the design stage and before planning permission is sought.

 

What needs to be done

 

The first step is to be clear just what the security problems are. A Crime prevention survey with residents and local police may be a good starting point (see relevant sheet). If you are clear on the specific problems then you can start to look at how they can be ‘designed out’ . You may also wish to apply for a ‘Secured by Design’ Award.

 

For advice on this or other designing-out-crime issues you should first contact the local Police Architectural Liaison Officer (ALO), sometimes called a Crime Prevention Design Advisor, for the area where the premises are to be built. The ALO will require copies of plans and schedules of security specifications. Points of contact for each area are available through Police website and the Secured by design site.

 

If you are a developer or property owner and your new refurbished property receives an award you may use the logo to promote that specific property. As with other improvements it will be important that any improvements related to this award are adequately maintained and serviced.

 

Secured by Design does not guarantee that a particular area will be crime-proof but indicates that the site has been subject to a design process and improved level of security which, in the experience of the police service and other agencies, have been shown to significantly reduce the risks of crime and the fear of crime.

 

Benefits

  • Better cycle parking and storage facilities can help to promote cycling

  • Secure cycle stands or lockers reduces the likelihood of theft or vandalism

Typical Cost

□  n/a

Funding opportunities:
□  Neighbourhood renewal funding may be available to support this.

Also see:

□  Crime prevention survey

More information:

□  www.securedbydesign.com

Suppliers:

□  n/a

To register as a supplier click here...  

 

 

Provide cycle parking facilities

 

The National Cycling Strategy has identified cycle security as a key concern and fear of cycle theft can be a significant deterrent to potential cyclists. Survey residents to assess the need for cycle parking and make sure that any facilities are conveniently located and secure.

 

Location of Cycle Parking

The location of an external cycle parking facility should ideally be as close to the tower block entrance as practicable so that it is convenient for users and clearly in view of any concierge office. Locating the facility on a main entrance route can help to improve security due to the regular pedestrian traffic, but it is important that the use of the cycle parking area does not conflict with pedestrian or vehicular traffic flows, or create a hazard for the visually impaired.

 

Most cycle thefts occur when bikes have been stored or parked outside, and as a result many cyclists prefer to bring the bike indoors for added security. The restricted size of the circulation spaces in many tower blocks can make moving a bike in and out of a flat on a regular basis very inconvenient.

 

Consider providing a dry and secure internal cycle locker area for residents on the ground floor of the block that can only be accessed through the main entrance doors. A number of external cycle parking spaces should still be provided for use by visitors.

 

Design Considerations

At the feasibility stage an area of approximately 1m2 per bike is adequate for cycle parking schemes where bays are accessed off existing circulation, where dedicated access aisles are to be provided an area of 1.5 m2 should be used.

 

A typical cycle parking bay is approximately 1850mm x 500mm with the width reduced to 400mm when the cycle stand design raises the front wheels of every other bike to allow handlebars to overlap. Where access between bays is required it should be a minimum of 1200mm wide.

 

Cycle stands must be resistant to vandal attack and theft, and allow the bike to be effectively supported and locked in place. Cycle lockers are an alternative to cycle stands and can offer improved security and protection from the weather by fully enclosing the bike in an opaque and waterproof cover.

 

Other considerations

 

Fixings Specification

When specifying cycle stands or lockers make sure that the foundations and fixings used to secure the stand in place are also able to withstand the forces associated with theft or vandal attack. Check that the material receiving the stand fixings can withstand the forces applied during installation.

 

Cycle Parking Environment, Access and Security

Any cycle parking facility and its associated access routes should be well lit to allow for safe usage and deter theft. Good signage should also be provided from the entrance to the cycle parking area. Where a CCTV system exists ensure that the cycle parking facility and its access routes are adequately covered.

 

Benefits

  • Better cycle parking and storage facilities can help to promote cycling

  • Secure cycle stands or lockers reduces the likelihood of theft or vandalism

Typical Cost

□  Galvanized steel posts: £45-£60/2cycles

Funding opportunities:
□  n/a

Also see:

□ 

More information:

□  Bike Parking and Security Association

□  National Cycling Strategy

Suppliers:

□  n/a

To register as a supplier click here...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

Extend boundary away from main entrance

A clearly defined site boundary can act as a psychological barrier to intruders and is an important primary barrier in a sequence of security measures leading through to the main entrance, the floor lobbies and finally the individual flat doors.

 

Extending the site boundary away from the main entrance will help to establish clear ownership over open space around the tower block and improve security by reducing through routes across the site.

 

Where ground floor flats adjoin large areas of unmanaged public space they can be vulnerable to crime and vandalism. Moving the site boundary away from the base of the tower can help make ground floor flats more habitable and create protected space for private gardens and community activities.

 

Type of Boundary

Any new boundary should be attractive and visually permeable. A 1500mm high metalwork perimeter fence combined with prickly defensive planting is an effective solution.

 

Depending on the context of the tower and the space available, the new boundary could encircle the entire block in a ring of garden space or extend from the main entrance in the form of a new entrance court. Care must be taken to maintain access for emergency and service vehicles where this is required.

 

Site Entrance

Moving the site boundary out from the block also provides an opportunity to relocate the main site entrance. Consider locating this away from through routes so that there is no reason for people to approach the site entrance unless they want to enter the tower.

 

Secure gated access to the site could be considered but this may be difficult to manage and create problems for visitors. It will also be ineffective unless there is a system in place to ensure that the outer gate is always kept secured, such as remote monitoring by a concierge service.

 

Photograph of the Library entrance

Benefits

  • Cost-effective way to reduce through routes and improve overall security

  • Reduces vulnerability of ground floor flats to crime

  • Opportunity to use protected space for private gardens or community activities

Typical Cost

□  n/a

Funding opportunities:
□  n/a

Also see:

□ 

More information:

□  Building Regulations Part M

□  BS 8300:2001 section 8.4

□  www.securedbydesign.com

Suppliers:

□  n/a

To register as a supplier click here...

Project partners:           | Price Myers: Sustainability |Battle McCarthy | Architype | STBI | Franklin Andrews |            

           

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