Street lighting raised as main concern in Northamptonshire following Sarah Everard murder and subsequent safety movement

Many residents are calling for a more and better street lighting, although authorities say majority of the street lights have been switched back on

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 5:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 5:50 pm

Following the death of a London woman - Sarah Everard - who was walking home from a friend’s house on March 3 when she disappeared, a nation-wide movement for safer streets has erupted.

The movement has reached all corners of the country, including Northamptonshire where concerns have been raised about street safety.

Responding to a social media post asking what would make them feel safer, a large number of Chronicle & Echo readers expressed a variety of opinions, but there was one recurring theme - the issue of street lighting.

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Street lighting has been highlighted as one of the main safety concerns in Northampton. (File picture).
Street lighting has been highlighted as one of the main safety concerns in Northampton. (File picture).

One reader said: “Definitely better street lighting across the whole town, we should all be able to walk the streets and be safe.”

Another commented: “Light up the roads. I already walk the long way home so I feel safe and I shouldn’t have to do that. And yet I still feel unsafe.”

Another added: “Start by turning the streetlights back on. Most women including myself do not feel safe walking in the dark, it's even worse in the winter.”

One commenter continued: “Street lights back on, or in some cases, to be installed along the back roads. When you’re on your own at night, either walking or jogging, it’s not nice having to keep checking behind.”

The county council says almost all of the street lights it is responsible for are operational.

In 2011, half the county’s 66,000 street lights were turned off due to local government cuts.

Following the switch off, safety concerns were raised about dark pavements, badly lit footways and the general safety of the public.

The recent movement has once again highlighted these concerns, specifically regarding more street lights and better lit streets.

However, for many, these concerns have remained in place across the county for many years since the switch off.

The Northamptonshire Rape Crisis Centre is hoping to organise a Reclaim the Nights march again this year to highlight the issue of safer streets. (File picture from 2016).

Dawn Thomas, CEO of the Northamptonshire Rape Crisis Centre, said: “Sarah Everard walked on a well lit street, but that did not prevent the attack.

“When the council adopted the turning the street lights off, we campaigned against it as well lit streets would give the perception of safety.

“It may help, but that’s not to say it is the answer.

“The answer is to have the conversion that women do not feel safe, why they do not feel safe and that men can help women to feel safer.”

In response to the calls by members of the public to increase street lighting, Northamptonshire County Council told Chronicle & Echo how many street lights the authority currently operates and what plans they have in place for street lighting.

Cabinet member for environment and place Councillor Jason Smithers said: “Currently out of our 48,812 streetlights (not including those owned by borough, district and parish councils and those on unadopted roads), 202 remain switched off today.

“We continue to have a policy of not lighting those roads with a speed limit exceeding 30mph.

“However back in 2011 we began a PFI (private finance initiative) project which saw a total overhaul of the street lighting owned by the county council.

“The work was carried out over five years and involved installing new more efficient lighting and removing the old streetlights.

“The new streetlights are taller and with better optics, so light a larger area meaning fewer columns are needed in each street, therefore reducing carbon emissions and saving on energy costs.

“Last month we also began a programme to replace around 3,500 streetlights (out of our total 48,812 lights) that were not included in the PFI project (for example they are on roads which were unadopted at that time) with new LED lighting.

“We expect this to be completed by the summer.

“We recognise how important it is for all road users and pedestrians to feel safe when out and about.

“We welcome the government’s announcement this week that extra funding is being made available through the Safer Streets Grant and would fully support any application made by our local Community Safety Partnerships to access money to make our streets safer.”

A spokesman for Northampton Borough Council confirmed it is responsible for around 1,500 street lights across Northampton, which have all recently been upgraded to LEDs and are all ‘currently operational’.

The spokesman also pointed out that there will be some street lights on newer housing developments that will not have been adopted by the local authority as yet and are still the responsibility of the developer.

Police and Crime commissioner, Stephen Mold, has also already announced funding for additional CCTV cameras, under the Safer Street Grant.

Campaigners hope that further announcements will be made, including for street lighting.

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