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A gated lane just off Newport Road
A number of years ago, a resident of Pen-y-lan Terrace contacted Cardiff Council to ask if the lane system between Pen-y-lan Road and Llwyn-y-Grant Road could be gated. Although not affected directly himself, a number of his neighbours - elderly people living alone - had been concerned by various activities. Some were as 'innocent' as groups of youths using the lanes as a cut-through. Other activities, however, include men driving down the lane in a pick-up truck with one stood on the back of the truck looking over into people's gardens. It doesn't take much to work out what they were looking for, either! 

In some other parts of Cardiff, a system of alley-gating has already been put in place. It's not cheap to do, and it can be very difficult to make sure that local residents use the gates properly. However, it has been responsible for a reduction in opportunist crime of the type that we have increasingly seen in Penylan. An academic study into the effects of alley-gating in Oldham was published in the European Journal of Criminology in 2009. This followed on from a similar study in 2007, results of which suggested that a similar scheme in Liverpool had impacted positively on the perception of crime and anti-social behaviour on an ongoing basis.

In Cardiff, over seventy lanes have now been gated, using powers under the Highways Act 1980. The Cardiff Council Strategy for Alley Gating Schemes includes consultation with local residents, local Councillors, emergency services (amongst others) and an assessment of any legal orders that are required. The current council seem to be following the same vein as the last, with an undertaking being given that the programme will not be affected by recently announced budget cuts.

The programme includes alleygating schemes throughout Cardiff, which have collected political support from local AMs and MPs. There is a strong and organised opposition to alley gating by those organisations supportive of maintaining public access to public spaces and open countryside. This has resulted in certain Cardiff based schemes being opposed, notably one in the east of Cardiff. There has also been criticism of some of the gates used, with one resident of Cowbridge Road East claiming to have found a design flaw which allowed several of the gates in his area to be opened without a key. In another area of central Cardiff, however, the local green group have used an alley gating scheme to transform the previously shabby Fox Lane into a far more welcoming - and lower crime - area. 

From my perspective, I find the idea of stopping up historic rights of way something of an infringement of civil liberties. However, the facts speak for themselves. There is both a reduction in crime and the perception of crime, and as such is can - in certain situations - be justified. This is not to say that alley gating should be used as a universal panacea, because 'Silver Bullet' policies are something of an urban myth. Where the majority of those proximate with a valid reason for accessing the lane are in favour of the scheme, it stands to reason that alley gating should be implemented. In Penylan, there seems the be some strong opinion in favour of gating around Penylan Terrace as well as further down the hill around Kimberley Road. It would be interesting to know what proportion of residents are in favour, though.

Pete Morfey
11/29/2013 03:11:46 pm

I have found very few articles on Cardiff alley-gating schemes, although from the council website they are now numerous and increasing. I have also found very little opposition, although some in your article. While we don't know how it will be with gated alleys until it happens, it is important to get it right as I can't see the council taking them away again. If an area is blighted with particular criminal problems I can understand residents wanting gates, but surely the price will be unused alleys. I know this may be a price worth paying for some, but for those us who regularly use the alleys for bicycle access or just to walk through as it's the quickest route, I feel the neighbourhood will lose out if half of it becomes a no-go area.

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11/29/2013 04:14:55 pm

Hi Pete. Thanks for your comment. I've noticed that alley-gating is a topic which evokes quite strong and polarised reactions in people. It seems that there are very few who have no strong views either way, but who have a lane access to the rear of their property.

A couple of months ago, I was surveying the area around Amesbury Road, Blenheim Road and Kimberley Road and found that a number of residents were concerned about unwarranted access to the lanes between these streets. Some residents wanted to see alleygating extended further up Penylan Hill, as they felt that the gating scheme around Marlborough Road and Albany Road had worked effectively. Others, however, felt that it merely moved the problem to another place. Personally, I think it's a little of each - it's certainly likely to reduce levels of opportunist crimes like petty (and not so petty) theft.

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