Cities across Scotland are embracing feminist town planning with Glasgow set to become the UK’s first “feminist city”, thanks to Councillor Holly Bruce, and Edinburgh is not far behind. The recent passage of Councillor Kayleigh O’Neill’s “feminist town planning” motion urged decision-makers to “create safer and inclusive spaces for women and people of marginalised genders.” If implemented country-wide, feminist town planning could change the way community spaces are used.
Councillor O’Neill explained her motion was designed to “explore policy change and changes to guidance as opposed to tackling issues individually,” as a gendered lens should be applied “across the board,” helping break down systemic barriers.
Feminist town planning encompasses a multitude of policies which involve taking an intersectional approach to planning. This means considering the different needs of marginalised genders, ethnic minority individuals, people with disabilities, and elderly people where councils have inadequately addressed them.
This can relate to access to healthcare, transport, and childcare, or smaller, still impactful changes such as improved bus services, more wheelchair accessible streets, clean and tidy green spaces, and street lighting in urban residential areas.
Speaking on behalf of Cailtin Lowry, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) for Girlguiding Scot Ryan Coelho, who is also Communications Officer at the SYP, said, “Feminist town planning is so much more than just about street safety. It aims to improve the community, thus having a knock-on effect of making people much more engaged to use local facilities and have an economic benefit.
“Is public transport accessible, reliable, and affordable? Are paths wide enough for prams and wheelchairs to be manoeuvred safely? Are our green spaces tidy, well-lit, and provide a clean, working toilet provision? If we take away the fear and hesitation to engage with people’s local area, it will only help to enhance overall safety.”
Even without a full implementation of feminist town planning, there is plenty local authorities can do now to make public spaces safer and more functional.
Mr Coelho, responding on behalf of Ms Lowry said, “Review street lighting in parks and urban residential areas. Are these being properly lit? Councils can cut back shrubbery in areas that don’t have great lighting, so people are unable to hide behind them. Reduce the amount of graffiti, etc., which can give a perceived feeling of insecurity. Look at transport routes, specifically, the cut back on ‘late buses’, to avoid people having to walk alone at night. Also, make [better] the public aware of initiatives like StrutSafe, a charity that provides a friendly voice on the end of the phone until you are through the door.”
Councillor O’Neill argued, “[W]e don’t need a policy to confirm that lighting should be updated in certain areas.”
She added, “[T]he list goes on, and importantly, the list should not end as the Council should always be improving and reflecting on how their decisions impact the lives of people from all backgrounds.”
Illustration: Isabelle Holloway