Call for Hitchin streetlights to be turned back on

A BATTLE is on to reverse a controversial scheme in parts of Hitchin, which sees streetlights blacked out after midnight.

Hitchin councillors are pushing for a review of Herts County Council’s scheme, and will meet after the new year to discuss potential areas where lights should be turned on again in the town between midnight and 6am.

It comes as a resident spoke out about her fears, claiming burglaries had increased near her home and residents on her estate felt unsafe.

And one schoolboy said fellow students, who had evening jobs, felt scared walking home after their shifts.

Speaking at Hitchin area committee meeting on Tuesday, Marcia Makebe of Milestone Road said: “Since the lights have been switched off, there have been quite a few burglaries [on my road]. One lady woke up to find a man shining a torch in her face.

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“People are feeling very unsafe. I come home to a dark road, and I don’t feel safe.”

A member of the Voice of Hitchin Youth, introduced only by his first name Harry, added: “Many young people have jobs in the town, and are finishing at midnight-1am.

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“They feel vulnerable.”

Although the councillors won’t have the power to make a decision on whether lights can be turned back on, they will put a case forward to the county council.

The part-night lighting launched across the county this year, but was brought to North Herts about six months ago.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Judi Billing told the Comet: “Streetlights have been switched off without any consultation with people who live in these places. There are so many examples why this has been entirely the wrong decision – an increase in break-ins, people feeling frightened.

“The whole thing is an absolute fiasco.”

Police claimed there was “no evidence” to support Ms Makebe.

A spokesman said burglaries in Westmill had fallen by one from May to November 14 this year, compared to the same period last year, and half took place during the day.

She added: “Criminals will be criminals, regardless of streetlights.”

A county council spokesman said a full review would be conducted in 2013, adding: “The council works closely with the police to ensure the safety of all Hertfordshire residents.

“In general, police statistics gathered to date do not suggest that the part-night lighting project has led to an increase in crime or indeed has changed existing patterns of crime.”

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