Comment Leytonstone

Don’t keep Langthorne Park in the dark

By The Langthorne Collective

Credit: Polly Kersys-Hull

Langthorne Park in Leytonstone is a gem. Built in 2000 in the Cathall ward, it is classed as one of the borough’s premier parks and features a wide range of facilities, including an amphitheatre, children’s play areas, sports courts, public art works, ecology areas, picnic areas and the pavilion.

During daylight the park is well used and provides a welcome oasis in the urban environment, especially for residents who live in flats or only have access to small outdoor spaces.

Sadly, the park has a poor reputation for being associated with anti-social behaviour and youth violence which means regular weapon sweeps are carried out by the Safer Neighbourhoods Team.

As evening approaches, groups of boys and young men gather on the outskirts of the park or near the pavilion, causing women and girls to feel unsafe. With the winter months fast approaching, parents are naturally concerned about sending their children to the weekly youth club. The youth club is one of only two provisions in Leytonstone. Last winter attendance dropped from 40 young people to less than 10.

During the last 18 months, we, the Langthorne Collective – a group of local organisations and residents – have been campaigning to ‘Light Up Langthorne’. In July, 50 young people from the youth club held a successful social action event to collect signatures. Over 500 residents have backed the campaign, signing online and paper petitions and a letter to council leader Grace Williams. From the onset, we have been met with opposition.

The benefits to lighting the park far outweigh the disadvantages. There is much evidence, including by the charity Parks for London, of the importance of appropriate lighting to promote safety and encourage use, particularly by more vulnerable people as well as helping deter criminal activity and reducing the risk of accidents.

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Research consistently shows that well-lit areas tend to have lower crime rates compared to poorly lit areas and a well-lit park encourages people to visit at various times of the day, enhancing community engagement.

Good lighting extends the hours during which the park can be used, making it accessible to people who are busy during the day, including all working residents and school children. Increased use of the park facilities fosters positive community interaction and physical activity which in turn promotes good health and well-being and can help combat social isolation.

Proper lighting also supports inclusivity and accessibility to a broader range of people including those with mobility challenges or visual impairments. Thoughtful lighting can enhance the visual aesthetic of the park, showcasing its natural beauty, architecture and landscape features.

Lighting can help change people’s perceptions of the park, encouraging them to take pride in their local area and get involved in its care, supporting biodiversity and climate action. This aligns with the council’s own 2020-25 management plan for the park which covers safety, accessibility and providing a variety of activity.

Of course there are disadvantages and some residents have raised concerns about light pollution and disruption to wildlife. Guidance and research from the Bat Conservation Trust shows that lighting can be incorporated without negative impacts on nocturnal wildlife.

It is important to remember that we are not asking for year round, all night lighting, just adequate lighting between September to March, on specific days, between 4pm-9pm.

Cathall is one of the poorest wards in the borough. Residents feel let down and unheard. Let’s change the narrative. There is lighting infrastructure in place, it just needs to be fixed or replaced before it gets too dark.

The Langthorne Collective is made up of Leytonstone Toy Library and Play Centre, Holy Trinity and St Augustine of Hippo, Friends of Langthorne Park, Waltham Forest Citizens, Worth Unlimited and Peabody Housing Youth Club

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