Queering public space

This 2021 project report from ARUP and researchers from the University of Westminster focuses on how to create more welcoming, diverse, safe, and inclusive public spaces for queer communities. Based on a literature review, workshops, interviews, surveys, and secondary data, the report offers some key recommendations so that any marginalised community who currently feels unwelcome in public spaces, such as the LGBTQ+ community, can feel a sense of belonging.

Date added 28 September 2021
Last updated 28 September 2021

*This resource is about inclusive public spaces. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to diversity, safety, and recreational space priorities for High Street vitality and viability*

This report focuses on how to create more welcoming, safe, and inclusive public spaces for queer communities. Specifically, it asks: what are the key characteristics that contribute to queering public space? How do we protect what remains of queer memory in our cities? And how do we move beyond the gayborhood towards creating public spaces for all? (p.3). As the authors explain, whilst queer 'enclaves’ have been created in cities like Manchester (e.g. the Gay Village), not everybody feels welcome in broader spaces of cities, and hate crimes are on the rise. They therefore argue that, "inclusivity is particularly needed for our LGBTQ+ communities, who are often absent, underrepresented, or invisible in the urban fabric and whose needs are frequently overlooked in the planning processes of cities" (p.5).

To further explore such issues around inclusivity in public spaces, the research team from ARUP and the University of Westminster conducted a literature review, workshops and interviews with academics and practitioners, surveys with LGBTQ+ people in London, and analysis of secondary data. Based on this research, the report offers several key recommendations so that any marginalised community who currently feels unwelcome in public spaces can feel a sense of belonging. These are summarised below:

Key recommendations

1. Rethinking the gayborhood

Inclusive practices towards queer communities should think beyond preserving the 'gayborhood’ and other queer 'enclaves’, and instead more fully incorporate LGBTQ+ inclusion, safety, and perspectives in broader equality impact assessments of places.

2. Inclusive practice

Planning, building and project management guidelines (BS8300 and ISO21500) need to incorporate a fuller understanding of inclusive design. Inclusive design should go beyond considering mobility and access issues, to also think about poverty, deprivation, and lived experiences, including of those with protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act.

3. Designing in diversity

Design of public spaces should contribute to desistance of hate crime, with diversity designed into public spaces to promote inclusion of marginalised and disempowered groups like LGBTQ+ people. This might include considerations of scale and mass of buildings; colours and facades; softening of soundscapes and visual environments; greenery and water features; encouragement of footfall and pedestrian flow; welcoming lighting etc.

4. Preserving queer heritage

Another important means of including LGBTQ+ people in public space is by preserving their heritage. This should include enabling such groups to create their own heritage in places, as well as helping to preserve sites through listing and requirements built into planning guidance. This can help to instil a sense of belonging in place, and educate wider communities about LGBTQ+ history which may reduce hostility and misunderstandings. It may also involve creating LGBTQ+ monuments (e.g. Alan Turing Memorial in Manchester).

5. Diversify workforces and engagement

There is a need to diversify workforces, and to engage more thoroughly with LGBTQ+ communities when planning and designing spaces in our cities. This active community engagement process would lead to greater understandings of their challenges, needs, and aspirations. Such citizen participation should be integrated into design of public spaces.