Lack of street lighting one of Hertfordshire's biggest safety concerns survey shows

The survey was commissioned by Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 4:28 pm
Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd
Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd

Many residents will know what it's like to quicken their pace or hold their keys a little tighter as they make their way through dark streets.

And now street lighting - or lack of it - has officially emerged as one of the county's most common safety fears in a Hertfordshire-wide survey.

The survey - commissioned by Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd - asked residents for their greatest safety concerns.

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And 'dark streets' - alongside cyber crime, fraud and domestic burglary - has emerged as one of the most common concerns.

Neither the commissioner nor the Hertfordshire Constabulary have direct control over street lighting, which is controlled by Hertfordshire County Council.

But given the results of the survey Mr Lloyd has committed to do something about it by working with others.

He says, he has already raised the issue with leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts.

And he plans to look at whether the county's modern street light system can be used more flexibly.

"It was notable in the survey that the areas that people were most concerned about were cyber crime and fraud, domestic burglary and dark streets," he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"[...] if the public tell me they are concerned about something, I need to do something.

"None of those areas are entirely within the gift of Hertfordshire Constabulary.

"But clearly the view that the Constabulary and the police and crime commissioner has - and which other stakeholders have - is working together we can do more."

Across Hertfordshire the county council operates a system of part-night lighting - with lights turned off at 1am and turned back on at 5am.

However there is now provision for lights to remain on until 2am, where there is 'local justification' - following a request from a local councillor.

Mr Lloyd suggests that some of those who responded to the survey may not have realised the additional provision that is now available.

Others may not realise, he says, that with the support of their local councillors lights could stay on longer.

"I think a number of people responding to my survey perhaps didn't realise exactly what hours they are there for," he said.

"But we do need to get to the bottom of, does that mean they want street lights switched on all the time?

"And I want to redouble those efforts around reminding people that if they are in a place which is felt to be unsafe then their local county councillor can get the street lights switched back on - if unsafe in a specific area."

Mr Lloyd acknowledges there are different opinions on street lighting within different organisations.

And he says views will vary in different areas of the county - suggesting that those in rural villages often like to see a night sky.

But he says is important to listen to the public.

"While there is that difference of opinion I think that our starting point is, what do the public want to do?" he said.

"At the end of the day it's the public who pay their council tax to fund street lights - it's the public who are affected."

Mr Lloyd says he is already is looking at instances where the issue could be addressed through Safer Streets funding - where capital funding could be used to make places such as underpasses feel safer.

But he stresses that this is often about 'feelings of safety' rather than evidence suggesting that places are unsafe.

"I want people to feel safe in public places," he said.

"A part of that is around street lights - it is only a part and there are other bits to it clearly.

"But I think part of that is around street lights and we need to be part of that campaign - ask the public what it is they are looking to have."

In response the county council's executive member for highways and transport Cllr Phil Bibby has acknowledged that people can feel more vulnerable when the lights are switched off.

But he stresses the flexibility of the process where - with the support of a local councillor and the police - lights can be switched on in specified areas.

"Hertfordshire County Council understands there can be the perception of personal vulnerability after lights are switched off under our part night lighting strategy," said Cllr Bibby.

"But we work closely with the police, who confirm that, thankfully, this is only a perception, and safety has not been compromised nor crime increased since its implementation.

"However, there is some flexibility in our strategy.

"If local councillors and the local chief inspector report a real safety or crime issue, they can apply for lights to be switched on.

"Also, cabinet agreed that if local councillors, on behalf of their residents, see the need to light access routes to main hubs such as transport, entertainment and hospitals, this can be arranged - to date we have had no requests.

"It is worth mentioning that since we implemented the LED conversion and part night lighting, substantial carbon and cost savings have been made for the benefit of Hertfordshire residents, as a whole."