‘We’re afraid to walk our streets’

View, Experimental street lighting switch off area at the roundabout at the Aylesbury end of the Wendover Bypass EMN-180716-112404001
View, Experimental street lighting switch off area at the roundabout at the Aylesbury end of the Wendover Bypass EMN-180716-112404001

Angry Horncastle residents have slammed Lincolnshire County Council’s decision to switch-off street lights, claiming it has led to an increase in crime, and ‘taken the heart out’ of the community.

The County Council controversially switched off thousands of lights across Lincolnshire as part of a cost-cutting measure.

Executive councillor Richard Davies defended the policy at a meeting of Horncastle Town Council last Tuesday.

However, he was slammed by residents who said switching off the lights between 10pm and 6am had led to numerous problems.

Resident Sarah Wilkinson said people were ‘afraid to walk the streets’ and blamed the switch off for a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour.

She criticised the county council for failing to organise and publicise a proper consultation.

She said: “In January, our lights went off at 10pm. It’s ridiculous. It’s unfair to the people of Horncastle. It’s creating a nuisance in the town that wasn’t there before.”

Ms Wilkinson was supported by other residents as she went on to say shift workers were among those most affected.

She added: “I have a great concern this was set up without consultation. The community has been let down. You’ve taken the heart out of our community.

“People daren’t walk the streets now. Crime has definitely increased.”

Coun Davies countered by saying an independent report and Lincolnshire police had shown crime has not increased.

He said the council was responsible for 88,000 lights across Lincolnshire and the annual electricity bill was between £8-9million.

He explained the decision to switch off 43,000 lights between midnight and six am had led to a saving of £2m.

Coun Davies added: “It is a big change and you are right to highlight it, but crime has not gone up and we have to trust what the police are saying.”

However, residents hit back and said: “A lot of people would not agree with you.”

One resident claimed the council should leave every one-in-three lights on and called for another county-wide survey to be carried out.

They said the initial survey had ‘been tucked away’.

One resident said she did not know anyone who had taken part in the survey.

She added: “How can it be a fair survey when most people haven’t even seen it?”

However, Coun Davies ruled out holding another survey and also said more lights could not be left on because of safety reasons.

He added: “Lights are there to light the roads, not people’s homes.

“The vast majority of people in Lincolnshire have never had a street light outside their homes.” Horncastle mayor Coun Brian Burbidge said the town council had done everything it could to encourage residents to take part. Asked by a resident, he said he ‘did not like’ the decision to switch off lights.