ESSEX: Saffron Walden street lights to stay off

PUBLISHED: 08:30 19 March 2010 | UPDATED: 22:11 31 May 2010

ONLY a minority of people in Saffron Walden would welcome the town s street lights being switched back on during the night time, a councillor has warned. Extra funding is being sought by Essex County Council (ECC) so that street lighting in towns like S

ONLY a "minority" of people in Saffron Walden would welcome the town's street lights being switched back on during the night time, a councillor has warned.

Extra funding is being sought by Essex County Council (ECC) so that street lighting in towns like Saffron Walden can be turned back on, but the town council has voted not to pursue the offer.

Saffron Walden Town Councillor Heather Asker said: "A lot of residents in the town believe that when the lights go off at night, Saffron Walden is still a safe environment. I believe that it's only a minority of people who desperately want them back on.

"We don't have that many locations in the town where people work night shifts and have to walk home in the dark. And at places like the hospital and the supermarket, where they do, they would have pre-arranged travel.

"The fear of the dark is something we are bringing into people. For many years people have survived without street lights."

ECC is currently pursuing private finance initiative (PFI) funding which would allow Saffron Walden to apply for a share of the money to turn street lights back on.

However, at a meeting of the town council last Wednesday, members voted down a motion to call on ECC to "restore full night time lighting".

Cllr Mike Hibbs, who introduced the motion, said: "I believe that this issue is of the greatest concern for people in Saffron Walden. People come and tell me that their houses have been burgled, or they've had their tyres slashed, or someone has urinated in their garden.

"I believe people are frightened, particularly women, and don't want to go home in the dark.

"There is a genuine desire to save money and be more sustainable, but we must realise that this can have consequences such as increasing the fear of crime.

"The county council has been given a substantial sum of money specifically available to us. It will allow us to have sustainable street lighting which is on all night - it answers both questions."

Street lights are currently switched off between midnight and 5am.

Campaigner to get the street lights switched back on, Jackie Swatton, said: "We have a petition of nearly 2000 names and addresses and a Facebook petition of 600 members, so I wouldn't say that we were the minority. Maybe councillors should actually ask their residents their thoughts on the matter rather than presuming. Or perhaps even speak to the most recent people who have been burgled?

"It had been agreed by the town council that £5000 should be put aside to turn most of our lights back on. This has now been overturned but we still have to pay for the £5000.

"Saffron Walden has had numerous burglaries recently, all when the street lights are out, so it is not as safe as our council would like us to believe.

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