Case Studies - People’s Park, Halifax, West Yorkshire

A benevolent Victorian land owner built a community town park with landscaped lawns rolling down to a series of shallow ornamental lakes. The park was designated a conservation area and was fully restored in 2002. However, the original Victorian design concept of a seamless visual aspect from grass to water was now seen to create an issue of child safety near the water’s edge. (See photo 1)

Because the grass slopes down towards the lakes small children could easily run or roll into the water, which is around 30 cms deep at the edge, dropping to 100 cms at the centre. A risk assessment highlighted the need to deal with the hazard, but fencing the edge of the lake would destroy the attraction of the historical design.

Agreed Safety Controls

It was agreed that there were three methods of access prevention which were acceptable, and these were used where necessary to ensure maximum effect.

1. Increased planting

Where there was existing planting adjacent to the waters edge this was inter- planted with ‘barrier’ type plants to make the shrub beds impenetrable and prevent children accessing the water through the shrub beds.

2. Extending existing margin planting.

Where there was a need to preserve a vista down to the waters edge, bund walls similar to those existing were created at a minimum of a metres width from the edge of the pond. The bund walls were submerged below the water level to discourage attempts to walk out along them and were backfilled with soil to 25mm below the waters surface and planted with water plants. This would discourage anyone from attempting to enter the water and if by accident a child were to step off the stone pond edge then it would simply become muddy rather than at risk.

3. Fencing

For all other areas a 750mm high fence was erected. This was of the ‘estate’ style which was considered to be in keeping with the history of the park and by moving it back from the waters edge to the path edge this would achieve the best balance between view and access and ensure that the impact on the grass maintenance was minimal. The consensus on fencing was that the estate fencing at 750mm would be the most unobtrusive and in keeping with the age of the park. Concerns that children may be able to climb through or under the bars of the fence would be addressed by installing stainless steel wire through the fence equidistant between the rails if the gaps prove to be too large to prevent access thus retaining the visual effect of a lightweight fence while removing the risk of access.


It was agreed that there would be signs advising of the danger at each of the entrance gates, and in front of the pools.

Thus the principles of the VSCG were followed and risks to visitors’ safety were minimised without detracting too much from the historic detail of the park.

Further Information

The park is now managed Calderdale Council

This case study was written by and was published in 2004

This website entry was last updated on 5 April, 2012

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