Friday, 1 Mar 2024

Charity voices concerns over decision to switch off 35,000 lights

Women’s charity voices safety concerns over cost-cutting decision to switch off 35,000 street lights in Cornwall – leaving nearly half the county in the dark

  • Cornwall Council to switch of 35,000 street lights between midnight and 5am
  • Women’s Centre Cornwall’s helpline number is 01208 77099 

Cornwall’s decision to switch off more than half of its street lights could lead to women ‘taking even more precautions then they are already forced to’, a charity says. 

The southern county will turn off around 35,000 lights within the next few months as part of a cost cutting exercise, leaving swathes of the county in darkness.

The Women’s Centre Cornwall charity raised concerns about women’s safety in public spaces after dark following the announcement, but emphasised the root of the problem was ‘misogynistic beliefs held by perpetrators who harass and abuse women in public spaces’. 

According to the charity, national statistics show that the majority of women are at risk from men known to them, rather than from strangers in public spaces, stating 6 in 7 rapes against women across England & Wales are perpetrated by someone they know. 

A spokesperson for the charity said: ‘The decision to turn off 35,000 street lights across Cornwall between midnight – 5am could unfortunately lead women to take even more precautions than they are already forced to, however we would emphasise that the root of the problem is the misogynistic beliefs held by perpetrators who harass and abuse women in public spaces. 

‘We recently carried out a ‘Walk My Walk’ survey which showed only 6% of women respondents said that street lights would help them feel safer on the streets of Cornwall. The majority of women said we need to address the root cause of violence and abuse through education and cultural change.’

Cornwall is set to switch off more than half of its street lights – around 35,000 – within the next few months, leaving swathes of the county om darkness (pictured: a street lamp on Penzance Promenade in Cornwall)

The Women’s Centre Cornwall say Cornwall’s decision to switch off more than half of its street lights could lead to women ‘taking even more precautions then they are already forced to’

The news comes as it emerged that cost of lighting Cornwall’s streets at night is set to increase by over £1million a year.

In a bid to save money and reduce emissions, 670 lights are already being switched off between from midnight to 5am.

Around 35,000 of Cornwall’s 56,000 lights will also be switched off during those hours, once the new measures have been implemented.

And all lights that remain switched on overnight will have their brightness dimmed.

Cornwall Council has said the measures will be introduced alongside an ongoing plan to upgrade more than 55,000 street lights with LED fittings by 2025.

READ MORE: How many council workers does it take to turn a light off? Cornwall Council to train its staff on how to switch off bulbs after one of its buildings was ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ all night

It was revealed at a council meeting this week that the cost to the local authority of street lighting is increasing by £1.3m a year.

A spokesperson for the council said: ‘Street lighting is subject to the effects of considerable energy cost inflation.

‘The prices went up by 92 per cent last October – effectively doubling – and have changed little since then.

‘We are doing what we can to mitigate these increases, including introducing the LED bulb replacement programme which in turn enables the night-time switch off.

‘It allows us to dim the lights that stay on, as well as turning lights on later in the evening, and off earlier in the morning.

‘These initiatives will deliver savings, although cost inflation and market forces make it challenging to provide accurate predictions.’

Cllr Stephen Rushworth asked at a meeting of the council’s customer services scrutiny committee this week: ‘Why is street lighting increasing by £1.3m a year when the strategies are to drop lighting and make it dimmer and save money.’

The council’s chief operating officer Tracie Langley told him she would forward a report as to why, which will no doubt correspond with the information the council has given us.

Lighting will remain in certain locations throughout the night for safety reasons.

Cornwall Council has said the measures will be introduced alongside an ongoing plan to upgrade more than 55,000 street lights with LED fittings by 2025 (pictured: Seagulls sitting on a street lamp with St Mary’s Church in the background, Penzance, Cornwall)

Those areas include traffic junctions, subways, pedestrian crossings, parts of town centres, areas with CCTV equipment and entrances to hospitals and police stations.

The authority has said other councils have not seen an increase in crime or road accidents when adopting similar schemes.

Councillor Martyn Alvey, the council’s portfolio holder for climate change, said the street light network made up about a third of the council’s total emissions: ‘Carbon reduction is a primary driver for taking action to replace street lights and turn them off or dim them when appropriate.

‘We are acting to cut carbon emissions, reduce energy use, reduce light pollution to help nature recovery, as well as help offset the increase in energy prices, as we take another step towards reaching our carbon neutral goal.’

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