Comet campaigns against street lighting switch off
THE Comet is launching a campaign alongside two political parties to say no to Herts County Council’s (HCC) plans to plunge our towns into darkness overnight.
Around 80 per cent of street lights across Stevenage and North Herts will be permanently switched off from midnight to 6am in a move by the Tory-controlled authority.
Residential streets are the target of the cash-saving initiative which takes effect in Stevenage from the second week in April and from mid May in North Herts.
In total, 70 per cent of lights - just over 20,000 - will go out, leaving neighbourhoods in the dark and increasing the risk of accidents and crime.
The leader of Stevenage Borough Council (SBC), Sharon Taylor, said the move, which is being rolled out across the county, is not suited to the town.
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“Stevenage is unique in its layout, providing many miles of walking and cycling routes that we all enjoy,” she said.
“Under the Tories’ plans, most of these areas will be unlit at night, which is a safety issue both in terms of potential accidents, fear of crime and risk of crime.
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“Residents across the town and Labour in Stevenage oppose these plans and we are concerned that it will have a serious impact on local residents, workers and visitors. Those travelling around the town early in the morning or late at night, shift workers, dog walkers and motorists will all be affected, as will our emergency services.
“Here in Stevenage, we don’t want to let the Tories take us back to the dark ages. That is why we are urging people to sign our petition now – Switch On to the Switch Off and fight for our lights.”
Richard Henry, SBC’s executive councillor for safer communities, criticised the lack of formal consultation on the plans, which are estimated to cut �600,000 a year from HCC’s electricity bill.
“When confronted with residents’ concerns about the issue, one councillor remarked that residents could ‘make do with torches’,” he added.
Robin Parker, leader of the Stevenage Lib Dem group, said the Conservatives claim they are saving money but the project will cost �4.3m.
“Even if all the projected savings are made, it will still take over four years to recover the cost,” he said. “Meanwhile, we will be in the dark and this will cause problems for people.
“Turning lights off may be OK in certain rural areas, but in a busy urban environment like Stevenage it is a false economy.
“How much will HCC have to fork out – from council tax payers – to meet personal injury claims from trips in the dark?”
Both Labour and the Lib Dems have set up online petitions which will be presented to County Hall.
To fight the switch off, sign up at www.stevenagelabour.com/streetlights and www.stevenage liberaldemocrats.org.uk