Secured By Design vs Community Access

Liz Alvey 14/04/21 General Housing Topics

Does anyone have any experience of achieving Secured by Design on extra care schemes whilst enabling the wider community to access facilities like the restaurant/cafe? We are being told by local SBD officers that community access is not compatible with housing vulnerable people safely even though the scheme designs have progressive privacy and several layers of technological access control as well as good natural surveillance of entrances and access points through positioning of staff office etc. I've quoted some examples from my own past experience but more would be really helpful. Interested in all examples but particularly welcome any from urban locations in high crime areas. Thanks

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Tobin Stephenson 14/04/21

Hi Liz,

There is a 'build a big fence round everything' approach you often meet with SBD officers. We are not in a high crime area and it is a semi-urban location but this doesn't tend to alter thinking. We had a meeting recently that was quite prickly which was heading towards failure to reach agreement. On reflection, it would have been sensible to engage with SBD sooner but a bit of retrofitting to design seems to have us on the right track.

I found that considering the perimeter a bit at a time and tackling each with suggestions of creating sympathetic physical barriers helped considerably. Strategic use of level changes, planting, gates and clear barriers has avoided an Alcatraz feel to our scheme while making it safer and still accessible to the community. None of us want a scheme we create to be blighted by crime and I think often SBD officers (who are police after all) have a useful contribution to make albeit that they are often quite dogmatic and single-minded in their approach.

Let me know if you'd like me to talk through our scheme and how we have integrated SBD.

Caroline Attwood FRSA 14/04/21

So fare as I am aware SBD is purely in place as an advisory process. Do they actually have the legal right to prevent you achieving your objective? It is vitally important that people with age-related disability of any sort are safe- but not so much that they are placed in a silo away from human activity and interaction. There has to be some sense in the approach to this.

Liz Alvey 14/04/21

Hi Caroline, thanks for responding so quickly. It has always been my view that extra care is about ensuring people feel safe enough so they can live their lives as independently and confidently as possible but not isolating them from the normal challenges of living that we all encounter. It's a fine line, I understand. We have the option not to seek SBD accreditation and are considering this but I just wanted to know whether it is a specific issue with these officers or a wider problem as in 20 years of working on extra care I haven't come across such a restrictive approach before!

Liz Alvey 14/04/21

Hi Tobin thanks for your prompt and useful comment. We have been engaging with them for some time through the design development phases and have listened to and taken on board most of their issues.

The remaining ones are the deal breakers from my perspective. They don't like the idea of having a cafe open to both residents and public which can be accessed through the main entrance and they want each storey of the development compartmentalised to ensure residents from one floor can't access another. The latter can be covered off by installing fob access and just not activating it unless there is a problem.

It's the principle of mixing residents and the wider community as a positive choice to combat isolation that they don't seem to be willing to consider at all. Amongst other things they talk about local criminals targeting the cafe and stealing residents' bags. We acknowledge there is some risk but the cafe is overlooked by the management office so there is good natural surveillance and we will have CCTV etc. I haven't come across such a restrictive approach in 20 years of working in extra care so was curious to understand if it is a specific interpretation or if there is a general tightening up.

Certainly happy to hear more about your experience - let me know how best to contact you.

Tobin Stephenson 19/04/21

Doesn't sound like SBD is being applied equitably in this case Liz. ILS catering can't really work (particularly in smaller schemes) without wider community patronage. It isn't a private dining area for ILS residents but a business located in the ILS grounds. Once accepted that it is a public facility not for exclusive use by residents, then the same rules as any similar business should apply. If the same approach you are meeting was applied elsewhere, you'd never open a café, restaurant or bar in your community again!

Happy to discuss but I think you have an interpretation issue and reframing the space as suggested (separate business) might get you beyond the dogma. Unless someone is going to insist on 'sign-off' by SBD rep then you can still agree to disagree having addressed most other aspects.