A range of projects to make Chelmsford’s streets safer for all, but particularly women and girls, has been funded.
Chelmsford City Council has helped to secure £550,000 of funding for a mix of infrastructure and education projects.
Sixteen projects will be set in motion over the autumn and winter to create a safer Chelmsford. Work will particularly focus on the Bunny Walks near the River Chelmer, which was identified as a place where people, especially women and girls, felt unsafe.
Action where it’s most needed
The Home Office ‘Safer Streets’ funding was secured after community safety staff at the council put together a bid, setting out where improvement was most needed.
This included education for all ages, street lighting and CCTV in the Bunny Walks, youth work, landscaping and digital support to make the walks a safer place to be, the creation of Safe Spaces for women and girls across the city and, crucially, education on healthy relationships.
Councillor Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for Safer and Greener Chelmsford, said, “Making our streets safer requires action on many different fronts. We can add more streetlights, more CCTV, more fencing – but to see real change, we need to change the behaviour that’s making people feel unsafe. As women have been saying for a long time (not just in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder) that means changing the behaviours of certain men.
“We and our partners will work in schools with young people to teach them what healthy relationships look like at a young age. We’ll work in the university to talk about violence towards women and girls. We’ll use the power of social media to show why harassment is deeply wrong and what it does to people. And we’ll teach adults working with young people to spot the signs of unhealthy sexual attitudes developing and to intervene early.”
Some of the funding will also go towards extending services which have already been proven effective in protecting residents. This includes CCTV, the SOS Bus – which provides support for people out and about on Friday and Saturday nights – and ‘Days of Action’, where workers from the council, police and other organisations focus together on one area to make a big difference to the community.
Walk safely, day and night
Cllr Stephen Robinson, Leader of Chelmsford City Council, said, “We want Chelmsford to be a place where everyone, especially women and girls, can feel that they walk safely. There is no place here for any behaviour which intimidates or threatens others and no area which should feel unsafe. This funding will make possible many projects which Chelmsford City Council has been working towards, including more CCTV, safe spaces for women and girls, and the excellent SOS Bus being in the town centre on more nights each month.
There is more to be done, especially to change attitudes amongst men, but this is a great stride towards a safer Chelmsford.”
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner, said: “Only by working in partnership can we make our city centres and communities places that everyone, especially women and girls, can feel safe in day and night.
“This money we have successfully secured from the government will help us do just that. “The projects that we can now deliver really will make a difference. They have all be designed to make areas more inviting and will encourage residents to reclaim the public space, giving criminal activity no place to thrive and preventing crime from happening.”
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What will the Safer Streets funding be spent on?
£164,753 will be spent on placing CCTV cameras with infrared technology in key locations to improve coverage around the Bunny Walks area, extending out towards the university and city centre. £350,000 of match-funded cash will be used to support and maintain Chelmsford’s current network of CCTV cameras including the extra installations.
£20,000 on lighting the pedestrian bridge over the river on the Bunny Walks, near the entrance to the retail park.
Support and advice
To help improve safety and reclaim the Bunny Walks area, £40,000 will be spent on a digital engagement project. QR codes will be created and place on the Bunny Walks pathway which when scanned by the public will link to digital maps, information about area, general places of safety and key contacts for support services, with content targeted for different age groups.
Volunteers support the upkeep of Bunny Walks, maintaining the trees and shrubbery. £15,000 will be used to encourage more volunteers, as numbers have declined following COVID and investing in equipment for them to use. Working with the probation service, community payback initiatives will also be introduced in the area including bespoke planting projects.
Residents are concerned that groups of young people loitering within the Bunny Walks were making people feel unsafe. £15,000 will be used to fund youth workers to support those young people to help them understand the impact they are having on the community and help them to make better choices.
Community Safety days of action
A minimum of four days of action will be delivered within the Bunny Walks area, costing £43,000. These will be supported by the Council’s Community Safety and Housing teams, police and fire as well as Neighbourhood Watch and other voluntary and charitable organisations.
Youth engagement using football
£20,000 will be spent on a project with Chelmsford City Football Club to work with young people to positively change their behaviour, using green spaces in the Bunny Walks area.
£25,000 will be spent on palisade security fencing at a school and graveyard near HMP Chelmsford, to deter criminals from accessing the areas following concerns raised by residents.
£20,000 will be invested on a bespoke project focused on healthy relationships and issues surrounding violence women and girls via a programme called Students at the Heart of Knowledge Exchange (SHOKE), an initiative where students problem solve issues that impact them. The five-month project will be delivered in partnership with Essex Police and Essex County Council, with the students’ results and findings used to help improve women’s safety.
£13,247 will be spent on awareness sessions on healthy relationships and consent for students at 17 schools and colleges across Chelmsford. The sessions will be delivered by Essex based domestic abuse charity Safer Places.
£10,000 will be spent on a flexible youth engagement project with Bar ‘n’ Bus to work with young people identified by the community policing team as causing issues in residential areas.
Creating Safe Spaces
£25,000 will be invested in creating ‘Safe Spaces’ across the city – these will be places where women and girls can seek refuge and support at local businesses and venues. Businesses will receive training and clear signage so they can be identified.
Awareness raising and education
£15,000 will be used to engage the London Bus Theatre Company to produce a social media video on the impact of harassment towards girls. The video will be produced, scripted, filmed and directed by young people.
Education on harmful sexual behaviours
£70,000 will be invested in training all adults who have day to day contact with children and young people to identify harmful sexual behaviours to help deter future offending and break the cycle of poor, unhealthy relationships.
Supporting women on nights out
£19,000 will be used to expand the provision of the Chelmsford SOS bus to every Friday night in the city centre. The SOS Bus provides support to people who might be vulnerable on a night out. With a large student population in Chelmsford, the SOS Bus will ensure people will get home safely.
£10,000 will also be given to expand the work of the Chelmsford Street Pastors who patrol in teams from 10pm to 4am on a Friday night and Saturday night to help, care for and listen to people who are out on the streets, helping people to remain safe.
£25,000 will be used to recruit a project officer who can monitor and co-ordinate the activity and provide regular updates to the Home Office.
More information on the Safer Streets Fund is available on the Government website.