By Jane Williams
Despite lobbying the council for almost a year, residents who enjoy walking at Millennium Green in Filton are no closer to seeing any much-needed lights installed in the park to improve safety.
The small-but-beautifully-formed green space was created in 1999 and is well maintained with flower beds, fruit trees and an amphitheatre. However, there are no lights and residents say they don’t feel safe after dark.
Hannah Morley lives close to Millennium Green and walks her Labrador there twice a day. Like many people, because of her working hours Hannah needs to walk her dog before and after work and, now that the clocks have changed, this invariably means she must be out in the dark.
In the wake of news stories about women being attacked in dark parks elsewhere, some people who use Millennium Green are understandably nervous. In September, a woman was sexually assaulted while walking through Arnos Vale Park in South Bristol, and two teenage girls were hospitalised after an attack in St George Park last July. The list of assaults on women and girls in parks is worryingly long.
Hannah says: “We message each other to walk together at 7.30am for safety, because as soon as the clocks went back it was too dark. We’re having to rely on each other to make sure we’re safe.”
As a member of the Friends of Millennium Green committee, Hannah and others are calling for lights to be installed to reduce crime, act as a deterrent and make the park safer for all. “There are often groups of young people gathered on the benches and smoking weed between the trees,” explains Hannah. “I am haunted by the attacks that have happened across the country in the last few years.”
Clare is another user of the park. She highlights that the majority of those at Filton Town Council are men and questions: “The majority of the park users who don’t feel safe at night are women. If a group of men are making a decision on women’s safety, then there is a clear lack of diversity in the decision makers, as they have no experience or empathy with the people asking for the lights.”
The Friends of Millennium Green have been lobbying Filton Town Council about the lack of lights and the need for general park maintenance since January. But while the council stepped up maintenance in the park, nothing has yet been done to progress the lights.
Andy Robinson is an Independent councillor on Filton Town Council. He fully supports the campaign to install lights and says the council previously obtained two quotes although neither was deemed suitable.
He explains that there are two camps of campaigners regarding the lights, however: those who want lights for safety reasons, and a wildlife group who are keen to keep the park in darkness to support nature. However, Andy believes there is a solution that could satisfy both groups, which could be similar to the LED lights installed in Greville Smyth Park in South Bristol.
However, Andy is confident the money is there to pay for the lights once a solution has been found. He said: “Filton Town Council has one of the highest precepts in the UK so the funding for the lights is there. Hannah’s cause is not an unreasonable request.”
There is a short survey for park users, here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/FKK3HQ7