4:20pm Wednesday 2nd October 2013
By Adam Binnie
A review into the controversial part night lighting scheme, where areas of Hertfordshire are plunged into darkness over night, concluded that it had been a success.
Hertfordshire County Council overview and scrutiny committee met on Tuesday to review the project.
The decision to turn off the county’s streetlights between midnight and 6am was made in 2010, in order to save money and energy.
Since then it has attracted derision from residents across the county, concerned with public safety and a perceived increase in criminal activity.
Hertfordshire is one of the biggest lighting authorities in the country, consuming 42 million units of electricity, producing 23 tonnes of carbon, and running up an annual bill of £6 million in maintenance.
Peter Simpson, senior asset manager of the scheme, said: "Street lighting was 10 per cent of the council’s highways budget, and 40 per cent of that is the cost of energy.
"The cost of energy is only going to go up, and that is a major risk for any authority.
"Part night lighting has reduced this by 26 per cent, and it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15.3 per cent."
Although the project cost £3.75 million, it has so far saved 31 million units of electricity, which would have cost the council £1.8 million.
Carbon emissions, which will be taxed at £16 a tonne by 2014, have dropped to 17,000 tonnes.
The figures for road traffic collisions recorded between midnight to 6am, showed an increase in two divisions in Dacorum and Broxbourne, of 94 per cent and 230 per cent respectively.
However, only one of these claims was on a road affected by the scheme, and the committee concluded that there were no road safety concerns in connection with the scheme.
The committee then heard from Karl Edwards, from the East of England Ambulance Trust, and Simon Brown, from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Neither could find any evidence of part-night lighting impacting their response.
Michael Rhead from Hertfordshire Constabulary examined recorded crime in four, six-month periods, from September to February, spanning 2009 to 2012.
County-wide, the numbers have decreased year on year from 32,673 in 2009/10 to 25,526 in 2012/13.
Mr Rhead concluded by saying: "There is a fear of crime, but crime levels have not increased broadly.
"Hertfordshire remains one of the safest counties to live and Hertfordshire Police remains one of the top performing constabularies."
Suzanne Alford from the "Turn Our Street Lights Back On" Facebook group, which has 1,380 members, then gave a presentation.
She has collected a petition of more than 5,000 signatures, 500 from her housing estate in Borehamwood.
She said: "I am here to represent the human element. It was wholly undemocratic and dictatorial to not consult residents.
"It discriminates against teenagers coming back from nightclubs, and shift workers, a lot of whom are poorly paid and are now having to put up with being plunged into darkness.
"I like to go on late-night walks and this restricts my freedom of movement and is effectively a curfew.
"We are a 24/7 society, people have differing sleeping patterns and none of this was taken into consideration.
"We want a flexible response from the county council, and some light at the end of the tunnel to help people who are out at those times. Give us some hope."
By the end of the meeting, the committee was satisfied the part-night lighting scheme had saved money and was more environmentally friendly.
Councillors were also happy there had been no impact on road safety or criminality since the scheme’s inception.
A report containing recommendations for LED lighting to be investigated, and to allow more flexibility in which streets are included in the scheme, will be given to the cabinet member before the end of the month.
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