Early in 2020, the leader of East Herts District Council asked me whether we had consulted with an organization called Make Space for Girls. I had to admit that I hadn’t even heard of them. We are now delighted to be able to say we are working with them.
Make Space for Girls is a truly inspirational charity which campaigns to improve our public spaces to make them more attractive for women and girls. The charity was formed in 2020 when Susannah Walker found that there were no places for girls to play in her home town, when she asked the council about it, they refused to do anything.
Since that time, the charity HAS been doing something about it. Susannah and co-founder, Imogen Clark, have been campaigning across the UK to raise the profile of an issue which has not been brought about by malice, or ill intent, but because councils and developers have not been talking to teenage girls.
We were fortunate enough to have Susannah present at the Surrey Development Forum, which is jointly organized by Cratus and Savills. Susannah was able to outline, in admittedly stark terms, the problems with the current approach – the MUGA / skate park / BMX track policy requirement – which does not suit girls when developed as standalone items.
More importantly Susannah was able to start to suggest what does work and the benefits of development designed with teenage girls from the outset. In their words, the good news is that “this isn’t difficult to fix”. The team identified four general principles which help to ensure that design can work better for everyone. These include:
In her speech to the Development Forum, it was also established that swings are also a firm favourite!
Part of the problem that is hindering progress is the lack of high-quality data about who uses parks and how they are used. We are hoping to be one of several supporters to a forthcoming campaign to change this, to work with councils and communities to provide surveys of who is using parks and playgrounds, and why they like it. We hope that you and your companies will be able to support this campaign as well – and we will be in touch in due course to get it underway.
In the meantime, we strongly recommend you follow Make Space for Girls for pictures of what good can look like: