The Crime Prevention Website


I am fairly well versed in the relationship between alleyways and rear accessed burglary, having produced the first guide for the public about how to secure them. A copy of the original The Alleygaters Guide to Gating Alleys is available here or from the library

The guide was based on my work in Drayton Green in West Ealing where, working with the local community and an excellent master locksmith – Ken Jay of Top Grade Security - , we put a complete stop to rear accessed burglary and reduced the overall burglary figure by 85% - and that’s a ‘forever’ reduction.  To be fair, the original idea came from a lady in Watford, who put up a single timber gate to stop a problem of prostitution in their back alleyway.  In fact, it so happens that neither of us had the original idea, as gates were routinely put at the entrances to alleyways by the architects of the terraced housing built between 1880 and 1930.  Those gates were lost to the war effort and were never put back!

A gate in Drayton Green - the first of modern times!

Steel framed alleyway gate

As a result of the success in Drayton Green and in many other areas around Acton and Ealing I wrote the guide.  After that the initiative was copied in Hammersmith, Hounslow and Haringey (where hurricanes hardly hever happen) and then eventually all over the rest of the UK.  Many thousands of gates have now been installed at the entrances to back alleyways as a result of the original guide and so effective has that initiative been that this website devotes a separate section to the subject.

As you can see, I’m still writing this section, but in the meantime please download a copy of the second edition of The Alleygaters Guide to Gating Alleys written by me and my colleague Patrick Cogan (Fomer Crime Prevention Design Adviser at Ealing and Camden).  The guide needs revising and to help you I have already rewritten an example of an operational requirement for an alleyway gate.  Please see below. 

Why gate a back alleyway?

The sorts of crime that happen in a back alleyway, (or ginnel, lane or snicket) include fly tipping, indecent exposure, prostitution, drug taking, fire setting, various offences against the person, thieving and burglary (using the alleyway for access).  If the alleyway is a ‘three footer’ or slightly wider and is only used for pedestrian access and there is no public right of way running along it and it’s not been adopted by the local authority then it’s a fairly straightforward thing to erect steel gates at all the entrances.  If there is a right of way along it or it has been adopted or it is used for vehicular access then it becomes a little more difficult.  However, many gating projects have succeeded against the odds and the important thing is to work with the local police and council to see what you can do.

Do come back for some fuller explanation later in the year.  

PM launches gating scheme in Southall

PM John Major launches gating scheme in Southall

No, you are not seeing things!  This is the then Prime Minister, John Major, launching a gating scheme in Southall in November 1993.  This was the first of about 100 gates protecting around 2,000 properties. 

Operational and design requirements for alleyway gates

Writing an operational and design requirement for an alleyway gate enables you to tell the manufacturer and installer exactly what you want the gate to do (or not to do) and where to install it.  It is then for the manufacturer to develop a design on paper that will satisfy all of your requirements.  The manufacturer’s design can be evaluated against your operational and design requirement and only when you are confident that all your requirements have been met will you give the go-ahead for production and installation to proceed.

Unless you have an engineering background it would be difficult for you to write a detailed technical specification, but it is nevertheless important that your operational and design requirement is as detailed as possible. 

The operational and design requirement shown below is given as an EXAMPLE ONLY.  It is for a simple, single leaf gate with an outer frame fixed directly onto the house walls.  Gates with outer frames (which include a top frame) may not be practical if the alleyway is going to be used to move very large items of furniture etc, in which case an unframed gate with side posts only should be used.   You should use this example of an operational and design requirement as a template for discussion between your neighbours and then write your own.

Bear in mind that there are many designs of alleyway gates influenced by a number of factors including construction material, operational requirements, setting and personal preference and planning conditions, especially for listed buildings and in conservation areas.  I think it would be sensible to consider each type to see whether it suits your local built environment.  There is no reason why your gate cannot be both secure and aesthetically pleasing.

Example of an operational and design requirement for a single leaf, framed, alleyway gate for an alleyway not used for vehicles

(Please note that gates do not have to have a top frame)









Height of gate

The distance from the top of the gate (including any topping such as finials) to the surface of the alleyway will be 2.4 metres

Planning permission WILL be required for any gate that is higher than 2m from the ground AND for any gate higher than 1 metre that immediately abuts the highway.  Planning permission may also be required in conservation areas – check with your planning department

Width of gate

The width of the gate and its frame or hanging posts will match the width of the alleyway

For wider alleys not used for vehicles it may be necessary to use extension panels 

Gap to wall

Gaps between the gateposts or gate frame and building wall shall be no greater than 10mm and filled with a suitable external silicon sealant

Not all walls are exactly vertical and such a maximum gap may not be achievable in all circumstances

Gap beneath the gate

The gap beneath the gate will be no greater than that required for the efficient opening and closing of the gate and in any case must be no greater than 100mm

It may be necessary to provide a slightly larger gap beneath the gate to allow for the migration of both wild and domestic animals. It may also be necessary to replace or put in place a concrete or other hard material surface on the alleyway to prevent animals digging underneath

Not all alleyway surfaces are level and you could end up with a gap beneath the gate that is larger than 100m in some cases

Construction material

The gate and frame shall be constructed of 3mm thick box section steel.  The gate frame and the outer frame sections shall measure  40 x 40mm and the  intermediate gate uprights shall measure 25 x 25mm

The gap between the uprights shall be no greater than 100mm



There could be more than twenty households using the gate every day and so its construction needs to be robust.  Steel box sections are ideal for the construction of a communal gate. 

A gap of 100mm should be small enough to prevent heads getting stuck!

Anti-corrosion requirements

The gate and its frame shall be treated to prevent corrosion

There are a number of methods used to prevent steel from rusting including electroplating and hot dip zinc coating and powder coating.  See what guarantees are being offered.  All outdoor steel will rust eventually, but you can slow the process still further by cleaning the gate at least twice a year using a mild detergent and hot water





Use by disabled people

The design of the gate must allow for convenient use  by a disabled person


You must establish which of your neighbours has a disability and discuss with them how this might affect their ability to operate the gate.  Involve them in your discussions with the gate manufacturer 


The gate must be designed to minimise the possibility of climbing when in its closed and locked position.

The lock, its cylinder and its fitting shall not provide a foothold for climbing


A simple box section gate with no mid rail and with the lock fitted inside the 40 x 40mm box section is usually fairly climb resistant.  A chamfered collar welded around the protruding lock cylinder will usually prevent this being used as a foothold (and will also protect the cylinder)

Gate toppings to deter climbing

Highways Act 1980  Section 164 (injurious toppings)

Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957

Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984

The gate will NOT be designed to deliberately cause injury to persons climbing over the top.

BLUNTED steel rods of 10mm diameter and 150mm height shall be welded to the top of the outer frame to deter climbing.  The gap between each rod shall be no greater than 100mm   

All Gates will be fitted with a sign to warn of the danger of climbing.  This will be fitted onto the top bar of the gate or outer frame and must not aid climbing

Please see Garden boundaries and fences - The UK law concerning fences, walls and gates

In a domestic setting I do not advocate the use of gate toppings that are designed to cause injury, such as sharp spikes or razor tape.  Such toppings could cause injury to persons NOT intent on committing crime and tend to either exaggerate or confirm a high level of crime in an area, which in turn can drive up the fear of crime

All gates and fences can be climbed over given enough time and opportunity.  The protrusions on the top of the gate will add to the effort and discomfort of climbing over

Visibility through the gate

A minimum 50% visibility through the opening section of the gate, measured over its entire height, will be achieved

Visually solid gates that do not allow clear views along the alleyway from the street could help a criminal, especially if a house has a window opening directly onto the alleyway. A darker finished gate is likely to be easier to see through. 

Anti-lift hinges

It must not be possible to lift the gate from its hinges

Frame and gate fixings must not be accessible when the gate is in its closed and locked position or otherwise not removable except by the use of specialist tools

I have seen installed gates where the hinge pins can be lifted out of the hinges and even gates that can be lifted out of their hinges





Opening direction

The gate will be inward opening

The gate shall NOT be self closing

Other than in circumstances where the local authority requires the gate to open in the direction of escape from a fire or the alleyway contains an immovable obstruction, gates must open into the alleyway

Note that it is an offence under the Highways Act to open any door, gate or bar over the highway unless you have express permission from the Local Highways Authority. 

Self-closing gates can be a nuisance when taking a bicycle or wheelbarrow through the gate or when people are handling heavy loads. 

Locking system

The gate will be fitted with an automatic deadlocking mortice latch certified to BS3621:2007+A1:2009 and the cylinder must be certificated to BS EN 1303 as having Grade 5 key security, a minimum Grade 0 attack resistance and a Grade 2 drill attack resistance.  This is to enable the gate to be closed and locked without the use of a key. 

Other than in exceptional circumstances the lock will be operated by a key on both sides and each gate lock in the gating scheme will use a different cylinder and key.  All keys and cylinders will be master suited using a secure patented or restricted system.



A gate that is automatically locked when it is closed has obvious security advantages. 

If there are building regulations that require the gate to open from the inside without the use of a key then this can be achieved by using a lock certified to BS8621:2007+A1:2009 instead.  This type of lock will have a thumb turn in place of a cylinder on the inside.  In these circumstances a box will have to be built around the lock on the inside to stop people accessing the thumbturn from the other side of the gate.  It may make more sense to cover the entire gate with a sheet of welded mesh or expanded metal instead to prevent access to the thumb turn 

Key distribution

Two keys will be provided to each household.  The keys must be of a restricted type whereby copies can only be obtained from you if the request is accompanied by a letter of authority from the Chair of the Acorn Residents Association. 

Most schemes have more than one gate and so you will have to establish who wants which keys for which gates.

Noise dampening

Measures to dampen the noise of opening and closing the gate will be included

Noise dampening is often achieved by using rubber bushes (or similar material) on the gate and frame and or by placing a rubber stop on the house wall.  Clanging gates drive people nuts and I’ve known gates being taken down by people because of the noise.  By using an automatic locking gate as recommended above you will reduce the possibility that the gate is left open between uses.





Gate fixing

The frame of the gate or its side supports must either be secured into the house walls using frame fixers or set into a concrete foundation.  If fixing to house walls permission in writing shall be gained from the owners/occupiers of the house

If there is concern that frame fixings may cause damage to the house walls it is quite normal to use freestanding frames that are set in concrete foundations.  In some cases a backward angled bar from the posts into an additional concrete foundation will be required for additional strength.  Check for drains, pipes and electricity cables. 

Gate positioning

The gate will be installed in a position that is as near to the front walls of the houses as possible in order that attempts to climb over will be visible to the street, ensuring that the gate is sufficiently distant from any front garden walls that might provide a step-up

Although gates should be installed as close to the building line as possible, setting the gate back from the front of the building line by around 600mm to avoid a step-up from a side garden wall would be an acceptable compromise 





Performance standard

The gate will be certificated to LPS 1175 level 2 or have been successfully tested to the Sold Secure Gold Standard.  Gates that meet these requirements are designed and installed to successfully resist such forces as repeated kicking and bodily pressure and forces applied using easily obtained levers such as screwdrivers, chisels and crowbars

There are perhaps three or four companies in the UK that can manufacture an alleyway gate to these standards. If you use somebody else, such as a Master Locksmith, then make sure they stick to your operational requirement.

Installing a light above the gate

The persons living at 34 Acorn Street have given permission for a light fitting to be installed above the gate.  Please liaise directly with them concerning the installation of a vandal resistant bulkhead light fitting with a 600 – 900 lumens (9/11watt) compact fluorescent lamp.  The light must be operated via a photoelectric cell.

It would be useful to install a light above the gate.  You will almost certainly have to rely on one of the adjacent householders to do this and pay the running costs, which would be about £6 a year for the lamp required to the left.