Caerphilly County Borough Council is facing renewed calls to backtrack on its street lighting policy.
Currently, street lights in the borough are switched off each night between midnight and 5.30am.
But Councillor Colin Mann, who leads the council’s Plaid Cymru group, has called on the council to turn street lights back on before the autumn months.
Cllr Mann said the council has “up until now been deaf to appeals to turn the lights back on”.
He said: “We have always maintained turning lights off creates anxiety and uncertainty for residents in their homes and if they happen to be out in the early hours of the morning.
“Lighting is important for giving people a sense of security and the murder of Sarah Everard in London recently brought this issue to the fore on a UK level.”
“The right thing to do”
Cllr Mann asaid that his party “wants to see a u-turn by the Labour council because it is the right thing to do.”
He continued: “Better to admit you’ve made a massive mistake than carrying on as if nothing is wrong. Even senior Labour politicians outside the local authority think switching off the lights was a bad decision and needed a rethink.”
Senedd Member Hefin David and Member of Parliament Wayne David, who both represent the Caerphilly constituency for Labour, have also called on the council to rethink the policy.
At the time, Wayne David said he understood the council had to save money, but said the policy was “causing concern amongst many people, particularly the elderly”.
Senedd Member Hefin David said people needed to feel safe at all times.
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru Senedd Member Delyth Jewell, who represents the South Wales East region, said recent events “have brought home to us all just how important it is that we have street lighting to make people feel safe in their area”.
She added: “Without adequate street lighting, many residents don’t feel safe leaving their homes after dark, and this is a particular concern for young women at the moment.
“I really hope that the council backtracks on this worrying decision and keeps the lights on.”
Last year, independent councillor Kevin Etheridge tabled a motion to the council calling for a review into the street lighting policy.
After the motion was rejected, Cllr Etheridge hit out and accused the council of leaving residents “in the dark”.
He said: “Many elderly and vulnerable residents are concerned about their safety.”
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Council leader comments
When Blackwood’s independent councillor Nigel Dix wrote to council leader Philippa Marsden about the issue earlier this month, Cllr Marsden responded saying: “Time for another discussion on the topic.”
Caerphily Observer asked the council to clarify and was sent the following statement from Cllr Marsden:
“The tragic death of Sarah Everard has sparked an important national debate around the issue of community safety, particularly for women. It is clear that this is a complex and multi-faceted debate that requires a shift in attitudes and behaviours across our society.
“I’m aware there have been calls for our street lighting policy to be reviewed in response to safety concerns, but it is important to note that we have no evidence to suggest that the introduction of part-night lighting has led to an increase in crime.
“We have always said that we will closely monitor the policy and review as appropriate.
“We will also continue to work in partnership with our colleagues in Gwent Police and other agencies as part of this process.
“There needs to be a much wider debate that takes into account a range of factors and it is important that we now start having these discussions to help safeguard the whole community going forward.”
In October 2020, the council’s head of infrastructure, Marcus Lloyd, said turning the lights back on would cost £1.24m in the first year.
The council has maintained that switching off the lights does not mean an increase in crime.
Gwent Police have said that if they identify any areas where they feel the lights need to come back on, they will let the council know.
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