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The 1980s sheltered accommodation complex, Phyllis Courtnage House, illustrates how design measures can be retrofitted into existing developments to improve community safety. The complex was subject to anti-social behaviour including vandalism, graffiti and litter. Fear of crime among elderly residents was high. A partnership approach was taken forward to address the issue, involving the police, local residents and representatives from Dacorum Bourough Council including a planning officer, the anti-social behaviour team and a housing officer. As a result a suitable solution was negotiated and necessary planning permission was granted.


The anti-social behaviour problem was concentrated at the rear of the complex, where fencing backed onto an unused car park. Overgrown shrubs and a solid fence reduced opportunities for natural surveillance and increased opportunity for anti-social behaviour.

The partners involved in the visual audit of the situation considered a range of options and all agreed they did not want to turn the complex into a fortress. Wherever possible a subtle approach to designing safety improvements is prioritised instead of building 'hard' physical measures.

In this instance, after much discussion, it was decided that the scale of the problem meant that on balance carefully designed fencing was appropriate to clearly define the distinction between the public and private realm. Planning permission was granted for new fencing around the complex and the area of open space has been attractively landscaped.

To maximise opportunities for natural surveillance and reduce the perception of a physical barrier, weld mesh fencing has been used. More shrubs will be planted along the base of the fence to soften its appearance.

Since the measures were implemented in 2006, the number of incidents reported to the police has decreased and fear of crime has reduced.

project team

Dacorum Borough Council

Hertfordshire Police