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1. Introduction

This publication is a guidance document focusing on the design principles for safer urban centres and green spaces in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (as amended) impose temporary statutory restrictions and are regularly reviewed in accordance with Regulation 3.

This guidance contains information and examples of temporary interventions that may be undertaken by the owners and operators of public spaces to keep people safe as and when the restrictions are relaxed and urban spaces become busier.

This guidance applies in Wales only and does not impose any legal obligations.

This guidance is primarily for owners and operators of public places including but not limited to:

  • Local authorities, town councils and town/city centre managers/forums
  • Landowners
  • Commercial landlords responsible for public places
  • Management companies
  • Third sector

This document provides a framework for identifying the issues associated with the use of public places in light of the need for social distancing. It focuses primarily on areas which are likely to have high footfall. It also includes practical interventions, which are temporary, for adapting and managing public places.

It is intended to enable the owners and operators of public spaces to plan for the temporary adaptations and interventions that will be needed as the restrictions on leaving the home are gradually reduced.

When addressing temporary adaptations consideration should be given to changes that enhance the public realm and experience of our town and city centres. Where possible offer a visible and practical demonstration of how we can best re-imagine and re-purpose our high streets and public spaces to ensure they not just survive but thrive into the future. 

This guidance provides the initial response to creating safer public places in Wales.  Further guidance on practical ways to reimagine town centres as vibrant places which people wish to visit and enjoy will be informed by work being undertaken the Ministerial Town Centre Action Group and the Placemaking Wales Partnership.

This publication has been prepared by the Welsh Government, based on UK Government guidance, developed with advice from technical experts and input from key industry groups associated with the ownership and management of urban and green spaces. Input has been sought from Welsh local authorities, Disability Wales and through the Welsh Social Partnership Council and the Design Commission for Wales.

Public health is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For advice in other parts of the UK please see guidance prepared by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and, for England, the UK Government (Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government).

We expect this document will be updated over time – this version is up to date as of 16 June 2020. You can check for updates at on the Welsh Government website. If you have any feedback regarding the content of this document and inform future guidance, please email saferplaces@gov.wales.

This document is one of a set of documents from Welsh Government about safer public places and related issues. All Welsh Government guidance can be found on the Welsh Government website.

1.1 How to use this guidance

This document sets out guidance across the main types of places in urban centres and green spaces that the Welsh Government advises should be assessed and adapted as necessary to operate safely in line with social distancing measures.

Each owner/operator is advised to translate the principles and examples in this guidance into the specific actions they need to take, alongside other guidance produced by the Welsh Government.

1.2 What we mean by “urban” and “green” spaces

The focus of this document is those urban centres and green spaces likely to experience high footfall, particularly as the Welsh Government guidance on staying at home is gradually eased.

Urban centres– focus on publicly accessible areas such as high streets, town squares, transport hubs and shopping areas.

Town (and city) centres are vital to Wales. They create a sense of belonging and identity and they are key economic, environmental and social drivers.

Our vision for our town centres is that they are great places to live, work and play and are sources of local/civic pride, confidence and wellbeing.

Town centres which:

  • look great, feel safe, are accessible and vibrant
  • provide homes, jobs and services
  • have a bespoke and sustainable retail offer
  • provide a variety of leisure, cultural activities
  • celebrate their heritage and distinctiveness
  • have green infrastructure/public realm which supports biodiversity

Any adjustments to public realm should reflect these attributes.

Green spaces– are publicly accessible open spaces focussed in, but not limited to, urban and suburban contexts including parks, burial grounds and cemeteries.

Key principles that should be considered in conjunction with this guidance and fully integrated into any plans, developments or changes made to make public spaces safer include:

  • Public health and safety
  • Equality impact assessments, considering the needs, involving and consulting with people who share protected characteristics
  • Sustainability (environmental impact) – Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015
  • Compliance with the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 and Welsh Language Standards for all communications and signage. 

For all areas and interventions care should be taken to avoid the use of materials and/or surface paints that may be detrimental to overall environmental quality.  They should not contribute to waste left in the public realm.

The use of vinyl fence banners, street bollard sleeves and signage should be managed and removed promptly where it is no longer required.

Any structures which are required should be of sufficient material quality so as not to undermine the quality of the experiences of users.  Particular sensitivity is needed in proximity to heritage assets and/or otherwise special environments.

Legal obligations to ensure that policies, practices, procedures and working arrangements support the equality and well-being of disabled people are set out in the Equality Act 2010 and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The Equality Act 2010 uses the ‘medical model’ definition of disability (‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term impact on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities’).

However, in the development and implementation of policies and programmes the Welsh Government applies the Social Model of disability, recognising that those who are covered by the legal definition of disability are frequently disabled by barriers in society, or the workplace, rather than by their impairment or condition.

Eliminating barriers is always more easily done at the outset of policy development or service design, rather than having to try and make changes later when barriers become apparent. 

In designing Safer Public Spaces organisations should consider accessibility issues carefully, carrying out equality impact assessments and consider the particular needs, and consult with, the people who share protected characteristics. 

Consideration of the needs of partially sighted / blind people is particularly important given the potential impact of temporary, or changed layouts. Working closely with organisations such as RNIB at the planning stage can ensure needs are as fully met as possible.  

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