Hundreds of Ipswich street lights to stay on in night safety debate - but should more be kept on?
- Credit: Archant
Pressure is mounting on a Suffolk authority to keep street lights on in response to safety concerns raised after the death of Sarah Everard.
Ipswich Borough Council has pledged to keep on the street lights it owns at night - 737 in the town, and called on the county to do the same with the 7,000 it runs in Ipswich.
Those 737 lights will stay on from tonight, March 19, until further notice.
Currently, lights go off between 11.30pm and 6am except in areas raised as problem spots.
Questions over keeping street lights on were raised in Thursday's county council meeting and the Police and Crime Panel on Friday, while the county council's opposition Labour group has also urged the county to address the issue. Additionally a petition started in Bury St Edmunds to Suffolk County Council has attracted more than 600 signatures.
Labour portfolio holder for community protection at the borough council, Alasdair Ross, said: “The terrible death of Sarah Everard has raised real public safety concerns, particularly for many women and children," he said.
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"We hope that our decision to leave our lights on throughout the night will provide some reassurance for people out and about at night.
“I would urge Suffolk County Council to consider leaving their lights on throughout the night too."
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It comes in response to the national debate happening as a result of Sarah Everard's disappearance on March 3 in London while she was walking home on her own that night.
Conservative cabinet member for highways, Andrew Reid, said: “Approximately 66% of Suffolk County Council’s streetlights in Suffolk are managed through extended part-night lighting (11:30pm to 6:00am). All other streetlights remain switched on throughout the night and this is in town centres and on main roads out of town centres.
“Suffolk Police liaise regularly with local councils through community safety partners to discuss any requests there are for alterations in accordance with our part-night lighting policy. We continue to review our part-night lighting policy throughout the county with Suffolk police.
“Community safety is a top priority for Suffolk County Council. We want everyone to feel safe walking home alone on any street, at any time of day.”
It is not yet clear how much keeping lights on will cost authorities if they choose to do so.
The county council's opposition Labour group said the current switch-off policy accounts for around 42,000 county council lights across Suffolk.
Group leader Sarah Adams said: "It has been made clear from conversations with concerned residents that better street lighting on our streets would make them feel safer and this should be recognised by Suffolk County Council."
An emergency meeting of the Ipswich's community safety partnership has also been convened for Wednesday to discuss the issue, and endorsement will be sought for a bid to the government's Safer Streets Fund to bankroll additional lighting and CCTV for the town.
The petition in Bury St Edmunds started by Kathryn Warnock said there were people who were "scared witless" at having to walk home alone in the dark, and added: "We deserve to feel safe on our streets instead of walking or parking a car down a road with no lights and sprinting to/from the lit main road to our homes, plunged in a street of darkness."
Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore, Conservative, told Friday's Police and Crime Panel meeting that there was work to do, looking at licensing rules around the late night trade and hearing ideas from people in the community.
He added: "There is a lot to do there. This needs to be a Team Suffolk approach, it will enhance our reputation as a county and what could be more important than keeping people safe wherever they are and at any time of the day?"