Councillor takes dim view of Stevenage streetlights switch off process

A DECISION on what streetlights can be kept on in Stevenage at night has left the public with “little chance to comment”, according to a county councillor.

Work by the Conservative controlled Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) to convert lights so they are switched off from midnight to 6am to save �600,000 a year started last week.

Lights have begun to be switched off in the Broadwater and Bedwell areas, with Chells and the Old Town being converted this week. The whole district, including St Nicholas and Shephall, is expected to have had its lights converted by next Friday, May 25.

The move has been opposed by the town’s Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in a campaign backed by the Comet.

Councillors who represent Stevenage divisions for HCC have been able to make suggestion on what streetlights they would like to be kept on for junctions and footpaths, provided they are remote from roads.

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Cllr Sharon Taylor, county councillor for the Bedwell division, said that because of purdah ahead of the elections, a map in the Stevenage council officers where residents could pinpoint which lights they felt should be kept on was only on show for a week.

“We’ve very dissatisfied with the way this process has worked,” said Cllr Taylor, who is also the leader of Stevenage Borough Council.

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“The public have had little to chance to comment on these plans. Because we had such short notice we haven’t been able to consult properly with our residents on which lights they would like to be left on.”

Both Cllr Taylor and Cllr Robin Parker, who represents the Chells division for HCC, have requested for a number of lights to be kept on.

Cllr Parker, leader of the Stevenage Liberal Democrats, said: “I’m against the switch off but given that it is going to happen it’s better than having no say, although how many councillors will take advantage of that I don’t know.

“I know the area very well and I did ask for a number of dangerous and busy junctions to be left on all night lighting, but these have now been refused by HCC officials. They’re big junctions and I think they should all be left on. I think if leaving the lights off turns out to be as dangerous as I fear then the officers will have made a mistake.”

He added that his requests concerning footpaths were successful.

HCC county councillor Stuart Pile, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “The change to part-night lighting follows a standard process. The process and its timescales have proved successful in of all the county’s districts and divisions addressed by the project before Stevenage.

“In all of these areas councillors have been able to achieve the levels of discussion they felt the changes warranted. They are provided with maps to support them in this process.

“I am content local county councillors have been properly engaged throughout the process with reasonable opportunity to sound out the views of local residents.”

The switch-off is due to start in North Herts in June although a HCC spokesman could not confirm when the lights will be converted.

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