“We don’t feel safe anymore”.
That’s the message from residents, terrified to venture outside since their neighbourhoods have been plunged into darkness as part of a cost saving plan by Cambridgeshire County Council.
As reported by Spotted in Ely, the council has reversed its unpopular policy of turn street lights off at night, following a massive outcry.
The decision to keep lights on overnight and return them to their full power has been welcomed by Arran Selhi, who heads Get Your A:Run, a popular Ely based club that often runs in the evenings.
“Thank you! My running club are SO happy with this decision! Thank you!” She said, of the council’s u-turn on dimming and turning off lights.
In April, the council decided to switch off many of its street lights between 2am and 6am on residential roads and footpaths not located on main traffic routes.
All street lights across the county were dimmed as part of the policy. The only exception was in Cambridge, where night time lighting was paid for by a Cambridge City Council grant. As a result, street lighting within the city boundary was not subject to the lighting restrictions.
On its website, the county council said it had had to make “further financial savings to the annual street lighting energy costs which are required as a result of funding reductions from central government.”
This would not lead to a reduction in council tax but would “protect other front line services of most need and may help to reduce any future council tax increases”, the county council added.
However, it has since found the money to turn the lights back on, following a massive public outcry, and contractors Balfour Beatty have been tasked with ensuring streets are relit during the night.
While many people have welcomed the decision to restore night time lighting, some areas are suffering from “black spots” as a result of old street lights being removed in the area, according to Facebook group Ely New Developments.
A considerable number of Spotted in Ely followers have said they feel unsafe walking in their neighbourhoods because of these black spots, naming Upton Place, Parsons Lane, the Highfields Estate and Mill Pit Furlong as being particularly dangerous.
“Parts of Littleport are a disgrace. Lighting has been removed in several areas where the footpath is uneven and dangerous,” Julia said.
Debbie wrote that she didn’t feel safe working in the evenings and arriving at her Littleport home shrouded in darkness.
In Ely, residents have named West End, Fieldside, St Ovin’s Green, The Vineyards, Cromwell Road and parts of New Barns Road as major black spots.
Tracy wrote: “Black hole of Calcutta on Mulberry way before Aspen Close. They took the light away now can’t see a thing between the junctions.”
Meanwhile dog walkers, shift workers and other pedestrians have expressed their fear of walking along Dunstan Street and Merivale Way, due to the darkness.
One New Barns Road resident said: “I don’t feel safe leaving my house at night because it is pitch black.”
Meanwhile Christine said it was “very difficult” to lock up the Guide and Scout Halls on St John’s Road because the area was so badly lit.
City of Ely Councillor Alison Whelan, representing Ely North Ward, said she was aware of “at least one injury on Annesdale as a result of the lighting policy.”
Linda said: “It’s so dark on Annesdale you cant see where the edge of the pavement is when there are leaves on the ground. Victoria Street is a narrow street with cars parked on one side and narrow pavements so people wanting to walk side by side have to walk on the road.
“Cars use it as a rat run and go down it at speed with their wing mirrors hanging over the pavement.
“One street light is now just a stump because something hit it.”
Soham was “very dark at night and in the morning,” Caroline said.
“Especially when some of us work shifts and have to walk our dogs with a head torch on feels very unnerving. You can’t see one foot in front of the other!”