City blackout condemned as unsafe

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Students and JCRs across Cambridge have spoken out against plans to switch off lights on streets across Cambridge between midnight and 6am from April 1st 2016.

Due to government cuts, the County Council must save £100 million over the next 5 years, £272,000 of which will come from the streetlight switch-off.

The presidents of several JCRs have opposed the plans, including Jesus, Murray Edwards, Newnham, Trinity, Pembroke and Trinity Hall. President of Cambridge University Students Union Priscilla Mensah told The Cambridge Student that CUSU will be working with students to campaign against the Council's move, as ''this cost-cutting endeavour exposes students to unnecessary vulnerability when students should always feel safe in this city.''

Rumours that Cambridge University may step in and pay to keep the lights on in student areas remain unconfirmed, and a spokesperson stated only that the University ''is committed to the safety of its students and will work with local authorities as appropriate as their plans develop.''

Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge has also urged the Council to reconsider the plan, which he called ''terrible for Cambridge.''

A spokesperson for the County Council said that “We have already saved £218 million since 2009 and if we do not find further ways to save money we will have to make deeper cuts from services such as frontline social care looking after the most vulnerable in our society. We absolutely understand local concerns which is why we have been speaking to local councils to find local solutions and a number have come forward to help pay to keep their lights on. At the same time we are looking at using LEDs to save money where we can and our PFI contract saves us £1 million a year. Further engagement with the public will start soon.”

The streets on which lights are set to be turned off include routes between major clubs and bars and student accommodation, such as Trinity Lane, Grange Road, Chesterton Lane and Free School Lane.

Following a series of sexual assaults in November, the Tab launched a petition asking the County Council to introduce more lighting to the city centre, stating that ''we urgently need better lighting in our parks and green spaces to ensure that when we walk through Cambridge at night, we feel safer and more secure.'' Following the petition, the organisers were outraged to learn that the County Council were already working on plans to reduce streetlight operation.

Partial night lighting has been introduced in other counties including Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Dorset, and Bath. Cambridgeshire County Council do not regard this initiative as a threat to public safety, having stated that ''The evidence supplied from other local authorities... is that there has been no increase in crime or accident levels which could be attributed to the introduction of part night lighting.''

When contacted, a member of the Cambridge City Centre Policing Team suggested that it is net circumstances, rather than ambient lighting alone, which encourage crime, and stated that they were ''not personally concerned about the proposal to turn off certain street lighting overnight.''



Editorial Comment: 'Cambridge must club together to stop the lights going out' 

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