Streetlights have been a part of life in the UK for more than 100 years, and while they’re not something that most of us spend a lot of time thinking about, they’re certainly handy. They help us find our keys when we get home late at night and they provide a little extra peace of mind as we wait at the otherwise dark and deserted bus stop. Sadly, in many parts of the country, streetlights stand to be the next victims of local council spending cuts.
Derbyshire County Council, for example, plans to shut down 40,000 of its street lights (just under half of the lights that it operates) between midnight and 5:30AM. Another 900 lights will be shut down for good. The council spends more than £2 million on paying for electrical supplies used for street lighting, so shutting off lights when most people are in bed makes sense in some ways, but not everyone is happy. Hertfordshire council is planning similar cuts, but on a bigger scale, with 80% of their lights being turned off after midnight.
Where will the cuts take place?
Most councils plan to leave the lights on in big towns and cities, where there is likely to be traffic throughout the night. The places where the lights will be turned off are rural areas where there is less traffic, and likely to be fewer people out and about at night.
The dangers of darkness
While some people say they’re happy at the idea of a reduction in light pollution (no more dim glows seeping through the gap in the curtains in the middle of the night), and quite like the idea of having a clearer view of the stars, there are some safety issues to consider.
Many rural areas have narrow roads, steep hills, and sharp bends. Turning off the lights during the night makes driving (and walking) all the more dangerous during the hours of darkness.
Crime, and personal safety, especially for women, is also a concern. Labour MP Stella Creasy said that they were “already hearing stories where the lights have been cut off after midnight and there are more accidents, there is more crime, and people are more frightened because the streets are so dark.”
There is also the possibility that a lack of street lighting may make certain residential areas more appealing for burglars, who will be able to work completely unseen. Individual homeowners may be able to combat this with security lights, but those on low incomes, or that live in social housing, may not be able to afford to do this.
Finding the balance
Councils are not making these cuts lightly. Local authorities are faced with around 28% cuts in government funding over the next few years, and have to make some tough decisions; should they save money though benefit cuts, reductions in their spending on electrical supplies, fewer public services, or something else?
If you have concerns about your local authority’s plans to turn off certain street lights, it is worth getting in touch with them. They may be able to provide you with home security advice that will put your mind at rest and help you to stay safe.
Image by Daviddje via Flickr