Dark streets at night ‘hasn’t worked for all’ - fears remain as decisions on Warwickshire’s lights draws near

WARWICKSHIRE councillors need to think carefully about the implications of switching off street lights at night, it has been warned.

Members of the county council’s cabinet are due to make a decision next Thursday (October 18) whether to switch off around 39,000 lights between 12am and 5.30am - a move officials say will save money, lower the council’s carbon emissions and could reduce crime.

But Cubbington parish councillor David Saul, who represents one of many areas that would be affected, has pointed out that neighbouring areas which introduced similar changes have since scaled down the number of lights going out after reviewing the impact the darker hours had on people.

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The Courier/Weekly News investigated Cllr Saul’s assertions. We found that in Milton Keynes, the council switched off 6,000 of its grid road lights last year but after a review - and a police investigation that found that there had been a 30 per cent increase in night time accidents on sections of the road not fully lit - a decision was made to keep 2,700 lights turned off and upgrade 3,300 to enable energy savings to be made through ‘dimming and trimming’.

Northamptonshire County Council, which had turned off half of its street lights, responded to 25 per cent of complaints during a public appeal process held afterwards by switching back on the lights in the areas of concern.

And in Buckinghamshire, a three-year trial of switching off a large proportion of the county’s street lights at night was held and it was found that there was no increase in crime. But in about five per cent of cases where the trial was inconclusive, the lights were turned back on.

Cllr Saul said: “Residents in Cubbington have expressed concern. People are saying to me, this is madness because we will get an increase in crime.

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“It’s well known that burglaries take place when people are asleep - when it’s dark.”

But County councillor Martyn Ashford, of the council’s part-night lighting task and finish group, said: “We have consulted other councils across the country. In certain instances, crime has gone down and in others it has not increased.

“The idea is to bring us in line on our carbon emissions. It will also save £500,000 a year.”