Peter Jackson, Managing Director of Jacksons Fencing reveals how the company combined security and aesthetics for a recent project.
If a year’s worth of lockdowns has taught us anything, it’s the importance of our outdoor spaces, both public and private. Across the UK we’ve witnessed a significant shift in the way we live our lives and, with little else to do, these spaces have provided all important escapism as the majority have shifted to living every waking moment surrounded by the same four walls. To put this into perspective, one report investigating the change in the number of visitors to parks and outdoor spaces compared to the period before the pandemic revealed an incredible 109% increase in footfall during the peak of summer last August (2020).
So when the opportunity arose early in 2021, to help create a safe public space for the people of Great Sankey, a small town in Cheshire, we jumped at it. Previously a waterlogged field, the aim was to create a safe, secure and aesthetically pleasing space, which would protect the local people using the park, the natural environment and improve availability and accessibility of green spaces.
The 3 Ss: Achieving synergy
Development projects in the public realm need to be both inviting and safe. For the designers involved, the balance between visual appeal and physical security is a challenging one to strike.
Whilst an important consideration, aesthetics can increase the cost of physical security solutions. This can have a detrimental influence on the project decision-maker who, rather than reaching a compromise, might be inclined to favour the aspect of aesthetics over safety.
However, as this recent project demonstrates, safety, security and style are all easily achievable. Physical security doesn’t have to create intimidating or fortress-like sites and similarly, designs that complement the environment and provide security without costing the earth are possible. Simple, innovative solutions can have a significant impact on safety, without impeding the flow of people or compromising the area’s visual appeal.
Access control, as the term suggests, is controlling movement. If anything, it should aid accessibility. It doesn’t have to be restrictive in appearance. In fact, in many public spaces, design features meant to control movement and protect people are integrated as points of visual interest, so their intended purpose isn’t immediately discernible. Getting the balance right can be tricky. On one hand, you want to ensure the public using the site are kept safe and secure. But, on the other, it’s important to ensure that this intended purpose doesn’t affect accessibility or the appeal to visitors.
Achieving this balance relies on a few key elements. The boundary between public and private or off limits areas should be secure and clearly defined. Second, access points should be kept to a minimum, with boundary fences clearly positioned to deter people from wandering off the beaten track.
In this case the ornamental fencing enables clear views over the parkland to help increase safety for park pedestrians. Further, the fencing helps separate pedestrian and any vehicular traffic within the park to avoid accidents.
Before this project began, the town’s parish council worked closely with Warrington Borough Council to undertake a public consultation, investigating if residents were in favour of the extensive plans. The proposal included a new entrance and boundary railings, as well as a children’s play area, an access path and bespoke landscaping of carefully selected hedges and planting. Improved drainage of the field was also a priority to allow usage throughout the year.
Every spring, a carefully thought-out planting scheme is set to bloom in the park, creating a sensory experience for visitors involving sight, smell and touch. This is part of the aim to make the new park a space for everyone to enjoy and provide peace and relaxation.
Jacksons Fencing’s perimeter fencing was specified for the project, providing a vital security measure, which helps to both deter criminal activity and prevent damage from vandalism. The chosen design allows for passive surveillance and incorporates inherent vandal-proof features for protection against attacks.
Metal railings were required to extend along the boundary to complete the entrance, making it secure. In total, 59m of fencing measuring 1.5m high and a 5m wide gate were installed, the latter allowing access for maintenance vehicles and emergency services.
Importantly, the fencing specified needed to match the aesthetics of a custom-built steel archway, crafted by local steel fabricator Cromwall Fabrications. The bespoke arch entrance features three salmon, the heraldic arms of the Parish of Great Sankey. Opulent ornamental railings were chosen to provide a secure and attractive boundary, to complement the arch style.
There are several design variations when it comes to metal ornamental railings: Standard, Style A and Style B, with a choice of five finial designs. Style B was chosen for this project, featuring two rows of decorative metal rings and was paired with J finials, a narrow, discreet option that mimics those seen on traditional wrought iron railings.
While designed to achieve the wrought iron railing aesthetic, these railings are made from tubular steel which is light and easy to install. The railings are then hot dipped in a galvanised treatment, which offers robust protection against rust and corrosion. A polyester powder coating provides the classic jet black RAL 9005 colour, which was chosen here to provide an elegant appearance in keeping with the tone of the rest of the space.
Following manufacturing, the panels were installed using tamper-proof, panel-to-post connectors, with concealed fixings used throughout to provide a secure, vandal-proof fence with no visible bolts or rivets to be removed.
The metal railings hold a 25-year guarantee, providing minimal lifetime costs in terms of repairs and replacements and presenting a more sustainable approach to security.
As people continue to make the most of public outdoor spaces, they must be able to do so safely. Carefully considered fencing solutions can set the tone for the rest of the park while also helping the public feel at ease, particularly if they’re visiting with small children or dogs keen to explore. Park fencing not only provides a clear visible boundary, but it also adds to the overall landscaping of the space, ensuring it can be enjoyed without risk, by all visitors in need of a breath of fresh air.
To find out more information, visit: https://www.jacksons-fencing.co.uk/
This article was published in the April 2021 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital copy here.