Calls for lighting in Finsbury Park as walkers feel 'unsafe'

Finsbury Park

Finsbury Park - Credit: Google

Calls have been renewed for improved street lighting in Finsbury Park, with residents saying they feel unsafe while walking.

Three years after 6,200 signed a petition to lobby Haringey Council to make the park "safe after dark", the authority is again facing pressure following the Sarah Everard tragedy. 

CCTV is being installed but residents are calling for more action.

Nancy Dent tweeted last Friday that the council "prioritises animal welfare over women’s safety", with reference to previous reluctance over installing lights due to a potential harmful impact on bats. 

The charity communications manager, 30, said: “I contacted Haringey Council in June after I heard a young woman had recently been raped in Finsbury Park - I wanted to see what concrete steps were being taken to increase safety in the area. 

“Everyone in the council seemed understanding about my lighting question, but the exchange made me and my friends feel angry and mystified because they said they’re constrained by the need to protect wildlife like bats in the park.

“When the local authority is putting the welfare of bats above the safety of women, that’s when you know they’re not taking us seriously.”

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According to the council, bats have levels of legislative protection when it comes to changes in their habitats, such as the introduction of lighting, which ties the authority’s hands. 

The Bat Conservation Trust’s statement on the issue for this paper said: “Although artificial lighting is a form of pollution that adversely affects bats and other wildlife, there are scenarios where lighting is desired or necessary, and in such cases it is possible to design lower impact lighting in more wildlife-sensitive ways and make people feel safer.”

The council told Nancy one bat-friendly low-lighting route existed in the park while another possible one had been identified and that funding was being considered for improvements to lighting for 2022.

Nancy said in response: “That’s not enough. It’s a huge park. All you have to do is type ‘Finsbury Park’ into Google and you see so many stories of attacks - why are funding projects only being considered, why are they not a priority? 

“It’s always good to have good intentions, but you need to take action. It feels like nothing has been done.”

Nancy was also told a six-camera CCTV system would go live by the end of August in the park, but as of October 5 they were still being installed. 

Men in the area have said safety concerns are not just limited to violence against women.

Policy researcher George Billinge, 24, was attacked one evening at 7pm in late March 2021 near the entrance closest to Finsbury Park station by a group of men who surrounded him and tried to take his phone, threatening him with knives.

He said: “I’m a 6ft athletic and confident man and I don’t feel safe in Finsbury Park after dark. There is an attitude of complete fearlessness from the people committing crimes there.

“When I reported the incident to the police they said they were sorry it had happened to me and they’d send officers. 

“I [later] received a leaflet later on from the police on ‘how not to get mugged in the area’, with suggestions like walk as if you know where you’re going and don’t wear headphones or go on your phone. But I was doing all of that. A bit of lighting would be a lot more useful than this police advice.”

Leader of Haringey Council Peray Ahmet released a statement on Tuesday, which said: “In response to the feedback we received from the public consultation on proposed improvements, we are looking to improve the overhead lighting to the footpaths in Finsbury Park and are in the process of installing CCTV cameras there.

"We also have enhanced visibility and bolstered our staff presence to help prevent antisocial behaviour and ensure community safety.

“We do have a number of issues to consider when it comes to overhead lighting, including the presence of local wildlife and the potential impact this will have on their habitats and conservation.

“We will continue to engage with our partners and external stakeholders on our plans to improve community safety in the park.”

A spokesman from the Met Police added: "Officers have attended Finsbury Park transport interchange where they spoke to the public and invited those they engaged with to complete a questionnaire about their views about safety in the area.

"Once we have processed the feedback we will share with our partners to help with local problem solving."