Darkness descends: anger as street lights are switched off in rugby

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A huge backlash against street lights being turned off across Rugby has begun as the town was plunged into darkness this week.

The street lights were officially switched off in vast swathes across Rugby at midnight on Friday - as part of a new scheme to save £500,000 across Warwickshire.

After midnight between 75 to 80 per cent of street lights now go off until 5.30am. On Saturdays and Sundays, the switch off is between 1am and 6.30am.

People living in the affected areas reacted angrily to the switch off with concerns about rising crime and dangerous levels of darkness.

Some neighbours have said they are going to buy sensor lights to put outside their homes because it is so dark.

Paul Robbins said: “It’s scary going out the front door into total darkness. You don’t know who might be lurking in the shadows.”

People who start work early and finish late are now finding that they are commuting in the dark, including Nicola Morgan who branded it ‘disgraceful’.

Lisa Bryson said: “I’m disgusted. I feel vulnerable. I bought this house because of factors like street lighting as I too get up at stupid o’clock.”

On Saturday night Susie Mitchell said her grandmother fell and broke and dislocated her shoulder when she was getting out of the back of a car.

Susie said: “She has played in a band for 20 years never once tripped up the kerb but this time she just couldn’t see it. Totally dangerous in my opinion.”

The switch to part-night street lighting was decided by Warwickshire County Council so it can make ‘essential financial and carbon emission savings’.

Places not affected by the changes include ‘highway hotspots’ such as roundabouts, traffic lights, central carriageway islands, traffic calming features, pedestrian crossings and next to care homes, sheltered housing and A&E hospitals.

Areas covered by CCTV, lighting next to taxi ranks, footpaths, alleyways and cycle paths away from road will also remain lit.

Cllr Peter Butlin, portfolio holder for transport and highways at Warwickshire County Council, said: “I understand the feeling about it. We tried to adjust it so it affected a minimal amount of people. The amount of people that get up before 5.30am is very small.”

Cllr Butlin said that perception of crime is not the reality.

He said: “There are 35 places across the country now that have done this and the feedback is that there has been no change in crime or there’s been a reduction. If the criminal can’t see what they are doing then the crime can’t occur.”

Cllr Butlin added: “If anyone is concerned about a light they think should be switched back on then please get in touch. We don’t want to make people frightened and we are sure we are doing the right thing.”

On Wednesday evening last week, people living in Rugby was given a taste of what life would be like without street lights when they were accidentally switched off at around 6pm. Thousands of lights went out across Rugby, Nuneaton and Bedworth and the entire light network had to be reset. Warwickshire County Council apologised for the technical error.