Fearful readers tell county council: ‘Let there be light’

READERS flooded the Herts Advertiser this week with support for our Don’t Leave Us In The Dark campaign, which calls on Herts County Council to switch the streetlights back on.

The campaign was launched last week after a concerned mother revealed her son, in his 30s, had been seriously attacked as he made his way home after midnight in Harpenden.

She claimed the incident might have been prevented, or the injuries sustained by her son less severe, had the lights been on in Grove Road. But they were switched to part-night lighting earlier this year as part of a county-wide initiative to cut costs and reduce its carbon footprint.

Readers are united in their call for the lights to be switched back on.

Rachel Dilley of Harpenden said she leaves her kitchen lights on in a bid to cast some light out into the darkness.

She said: “I recently had to pick my daughter up after 1am and was terrified as I drove to collect her, even with my headlights on as it was difficult to see clearly.

“I called the council who passed it to the Highways department who then passed it back to my local councillor. We spoke and he said that in the old days there were no lights and advised me not to get up and look out! There were definitely lights when I was young, so perhaps he’s talking about the Victorian era?”

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Jennifer McNish of St Albans predicted more light-related crime stories but said there were other elements to the switch-off too.

She said: “It is not just the fear of being attacked, but also the fact that you could easily trip or fall over something – e.g. uneven pavements – when you can’t see a hand in front of you. We might just as well be living in war time.”

Haydn Williams of Harpenden blasted the police’s response to last week’s story – “robberies like this do occur during daylight hours” – claiming it lacked empathy and common sense.

He added: “I hope the council have also set aside funds to cover the inevitable legal claims from those who trip or fall in the darkness.”

Margaret Shepperd described the decision to switch off the lights as a “colossal, irresponsible mistake” and said Herts county council needed to act quickly before anyone else was hurt.

Abbigail Knowles, 21, of Harpenden, works just five minutes from her home but the switch off has seen her having to be dropped off at home by her boss. She said the argument that the move would cut the district’s carbon footprint was counter productive, as she was now reliant on a car to get to and from work.

She said: “The area is so dark, you can’t see your own hand in front of your face. Myself and my family have been worried that something like what happened to that man could happen to me.

“What should be a safe area where we feel comfortable has meant that I have been forced to take precautions beyond what should be necessary.”

She is one of a number of readers who have raised the possibility of pushing back the switch off to later in the night, enabling those who work or are out socialising to get home safely.

Others said they’d happily pay an extra few pounds per month to pay for all-night lighting.

A petition on the county council’s website has been set up by campaigners, calling for the lights to be switched back on. Visit: https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/