Postmen and women in Exeter have asked for streetlighting to be put back on as they fear for their safety.
Devon County Council began the switch to part-night lighting in April. The switch-off took place from midnight until 5:30am. Concerned citizens involved their local MP Ben Bradshaw.
Devon County Council’s Exeter streetlight switch off has been a disaster from the start. It must now be reviewed. Local councillors and I have been inundated with complaints from residents. Now, local postmen and women and Royal Mail management have raised serious safety concerns. They start work in the dark and, if we get wintry weather, will face additional hazard. They are quite right to call on the council to introduce energy saving technology instead. This is what we’ve called for from the start and the council has still not explained why it won’t do it.
Health and Safety representative for the Communication Workers Union’s Western Counties Branch, Darren Rowbotham, said:
It means [residents and postal workers] are now starting their day in complete darkness, which is hazardous enough, but will be much worse in wintry weather, street lighting or even dimming it could have serious implications.
We believe the decision to turn off the streetlights has led to an increase in the ‘fear factor’ among our staff and residents of Exeter. Streetlighting improves safety for our drivers, bicycle riders and pedestrians many of whom walk to work in the dark using mobile phones to light the way ahead. Another fear is now that the weather is changing and getting colder, without streetlights this journey will be a greater hazard for the delivery staff with black ice, snow, wind and rain all adding to an already hazardous journey. A tragic example of these risks becoming a reality is the death of a Bedfordshire student who died having been hit by a taxi last December. At the inquest, the coroner ruled that a lack of streetlighting had materially contributed to his death.
We feel councils should only reduce lighting if they are sure it will not lead to an increase in accidents or put personal safety at risk, which is something we feel strongly has not happened in Exeter, and we fear fatal accidents may arise from the darkness. While appreciating the difficult task faced by local authorities in dealing with such cuts to budgets, there must be a balance between reducing expenditure without creating an increased risk to the general public. Other councils are investigating the possibility of achieving costs savings by switching to modern LED streetlighting. Upgrading the streetlighting will bring in electricity cost savings in the medium to long term.