A campaign has begun to add more lighting to Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage.

Jennifer Huygen is the woman behind the petition, which has already racked up almost 500 signatures since it launched on November 5.

She's a regular user of the park, but says that she feels uncomfortable going there by herself after dusk because the lack of lighting "creates an unsafe environment, especially for women".

Her aim is to make sure "that everyone can feel safe" to enjoy Fairlands Valley Park outside daylight hours, and she is asking for Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) - who are responsible for the park - to introduce "eco-friendly and wildlife-conscious" lighting along the main paths and access points that have hitherto been unlit.

Currently, there is some lighting on east-west routes through the park (i.e. on the short side) but not on north-south routes (i.e. from one end of the lakes to the other).

Speaking to the Comet, Jennifer said: "I love Fairlands Valley Park. As someone who uses the park almost every day, I felt it was up to us, the regular users, to step up.

"This isn't just my petition; it's ours. In fact, we are still actively looking for signatures.

"Every signature on this petition is a neighbour saying 'I care'. I care about our safety, our park, and our community. That's why I am asking everyone to sign this petition and to share with their friends, family, and colleagues!


"The overwhelming support in just a few days shows that we're all looking for that sense of security and community connection. The Council is listening and we now need to show that this is an issue that affects every community in Stevenage."

The idea for a petition came to Jennifer from conversations with friends and neighbours after she already engaged with SBC on the issue.

Ahead of the last full council meeting, she asked Cllr Simon Speller, executive member for environment and performance, whether there were any plans to install lighting along paths in Fairlands Valley Park.

In response, he said that the council is aware that "women in particular can feel vulnerable in our parks" and that he is "committed to finding ways to help all residents enjoy the town and exercise in safety and confidence".

He invited Jennifer to help them conduct a "strategic review of getting the best out of all our parks, in all seasons, and where sensible, at all times", and added that he will set up a user engagement group for that review.

Cllr Speller noted that "the council has recently taken over the running of the facilities within Fairlands Valley Park and we will be reviewing the opportunities this might present".

However, Jennifer queried the inclusion in his response of activities run for women by Everyone Active at the swimming pool and Arts and Leisure Centre.

She pointed out that those options are indoors, whereas she would like to be able to run by herself in Fairlands Valley Park at night "without fear of harassment".

She said: "I shouldn't have to join an indoor leisure facility to be physically active, especially when I have nature, quite literally, on my doorstep."

Jennifer also said that the park is an "important transportation route" for many, like her, who walk or cycle through it to get to where they need to go.

Cllr Speller said that there are "lots of options" that may be possible for adding lighting, and that he would like to have Jennifer's input in helping to "make Fairlands Valley feel safer ... particularly [for] women".

You can find Jennifer's petition at www.BrighterPathsStevenage.org.uk.