Published: 15:00, 29 July 2015
Research which concludes switching off street lights at night has had no impact on road accidents and crime has prompted a mixed reaction from a leading Gravesend campaigner.
Legal secretary Tina Brooker, of The Warren, said although the report stated street lighting can be reduced without an increase in car crashes and crime, some of its findings gave weight to her call for lighting to be returned to many residential streets.
The 52-year-old has fought for more than a year for Kent County Council to reverse its implementation of the Safe and Sensible initiative, which saw up to 70,000 lights turned off between midnight and 6am countywide.
She believes KCC has a legal duty to provide all-night lighting as a matter of “public health and well-being”, and that people’s fear of crime should not be ignored in favour of statistics alone.
Miss Brooker said: “I believe this report greatly assists the case for keeping our street lights on.
“It states that street light at night was found to be important to many urban and suburban residents, and some felt less safe in the dark.
“It also added that switching off lights was perceived as representing neglect of an area by the local authority who were removing a ‘public good’.
“I have been saying this to KCC councillors for 15 months now.”
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, analysed 14 years of data from 62 councils across England and Wales who had implemented a range of reduced street light strategies.
The number of night-time collisions was compared to those that occurred in the day from 2000 to 2013, while data from 2010 to 2013 was compared to analyse how many crimes took place in an area and what types of street lighting were used there.
The report, undertaken by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in partnership with University College London, concluded there was no evidence of a link between reduced street lighting and night-time car crashes or increased crime.
However, the researchers warned that street light reductions needed to be carefully planned by local authorities.
It also stated there were “strong concerns” from people interviewed as part of the research.
But Miss Brooker disputed the finding that there was no evidence to date on whether there had been an impact on public health.
“With the stripping back of two basic safety measures, policing and streetlighting, I personally believe there could be a big impact on public health,” she said.
“We are constantly being told that we are an ageing population and care in the community is now essential due to budget restraints and NHS pressure.
“Public health and well-being should be a local council’s number one priority" - Tina Brooker
“I put it to councils that street lighting should be included in the care in the community package. It gives reassurance, especially to vulnerable people.
“Public health and well-being should be a local council’s number one priority.”
Since the implementation of its scheme, KCC has announced it will now convert its 118,000 street lights to cost-effective and energy-saving LEDs at a cost of £40 million.
It is due to start a period of public consultation in which people will be asked for their views on three options.
These are to have part-night lighting by turning off streetlights between 12am and 5.30am; to continue with all-night lighting but dimming lights by half and finally, returning to all-night lighting.