Controversial streetlight switch off to go ahead


- Credit: Archant

A controversial decision to permanently switch off streetlights between midnight and 6am looks set to be upheld, prompting criticism from those concerned the scheme has led to an increase in fear of crime.

As a cash-saving initiative, the Conservative Herts County Council (HCC) made the decision to turn off about 80 per cent of streetlights between midnight and 6am across Stevenage and North Herts last year.

The move has been widely criticised, with people claiming it has resulted in an increase in crime.

On October 1, the council’s overview and scrutiny committee is set to review the decision, with input from bodies including Herts Police.

But last Thursday, the agenda for HCC’s highways and waste management cabinet panel recommended no change to the scheme,

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Malcolm Cowan, vice chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee, said: “We have an all-day scrutiny of part-night lighting coming up on October 1, yet weeks before the scrutiny starts, we receive the verdict ‘no change’. It really is contemptuous of those taking part.”

He said the HCC report at last Thursday’s meeting even claims that putting the lights back on would not reduce fear of crime, despite acknowledging that turning them off did increase fear of crime.

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“It is not just crime, it is the appalling state of many roads and footpaths that makes walking or cycling in the dark so dangerous,” added Liberal Democrat leader Stephen Giles-Medhurst.

A spokesman for HCC said the part-night lighting project has met or exceeded its objectives on economic, environmental and safety grounds.

Terry Douris, HCC’s Cabinet member for highways and waste management, said: “In November 2010 your local county council approved changes to the county’s streetlighting policy, designed to reduce the council’s energy bill and carbon emissions.

“Now, one year on from introducing part-night lighting across the whole county, our review shows that - despite some people’s fears - actual safety has not declined. There has been no increase in crime and no increase in road traffic accidents due to part-night lighting, and the changes to our streetlighting policy are saving around £1.3 million a year, as well as reducing carbon emissions.”

The HCC spokesman said that on October 1 a day of scrutiny will be held when detailed evidence from a number of stakeholders, including Herts Police, other local authorities, and the views of the highways and waste management cabinet panel will be heard.

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