Prisoners of the street light cuts

Corby St Ninians street lighting story: (front) Marget Malley, with users.'06/01/12
Corby St Ninians street lighting story: (front) Marget Malley, with users.'06/01/12
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Pensioners say they are becoming prisoners in their homes since the county council switched off street lights.

Elderly members of the congregation at St Ninian’s Church, Beanfield Avenue, Corby, have stopped attending functions in the evening because they fear falling over and being injured in the dark.

A fundraising musical concert and dinner planned by the church in February has been cancelled because no-one was prepared to go out in the evening.

Church elder Margaret Malley said: “The performers were booked and the invitations issued but unfortunately the concert has been cancelled because most of the congregation no longer felt safe to venture outside their homes after dark.

“They didn’t feel able to attend something to which they had looked forward.

“Lack of street lighting on the Beanfield estate makes them feel very vulnerable during the hours of darkness, even close to their homes, and consequently fearful of coming to the church in the evenings.”

The church elders have written to Corby Council and the county council to express their concerns.

So far the county council, which switched off half Northamptonshire’s street lights last year to save £2m a year, has not responded.

Mrs Malley said: “As an ageing congregation we understand the need to tighten our belts and to live within our means, apparently more than some politicians.

“It is something that we have all done throughout our lives.

“However, it cannot be right that discretionary spending decisions of the county council impact the most vulnerable in our society the most.”

The church has urged the county council to re-think its decision to ensure that the elderly are not isolated through the fear of stepping outside their own front doors.

Bill Morrison, session clerk at St Ninian’s, said: “The decision to switch off street lights is affecting community life. We understand the need for cutbacks but the way the lights have been switched off has left elderly people in fear of falling. Many are sight-impaired and they are worried they will stumble and be hurt.

“If alternate lights had been switched off it wouldn’t be so bad but this has not been the case.”

Mr Morrison said a sequence dance group which meets once a week at the church and has elderly and middle-aged members has changed its starting time from 1.30pm to 12.30pm.

He said: “People are simply afraid to be out in the dark.”

Ann Leech, 67, of Farndale Avenue, Corby, and her husband George, 68, are members of St Ninian’s congregation.

Mrs Leech said: “I won’t go out after dark unless I have someone to pick me up and drop me back home. I’m worried about falling on kerbs or other obstacles in the dark. It’s a terrible state of affairs, and very disappointing the concert has had to be cancelled.”

A county council spokesman said: “The lights haven’t been turned off on an ad-hoc basis. We’ve worked hard to establish a rationale, available at www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/streetlights, and have liaised closely with the police to help make our decisions.

“We continue to liaise with the police and monitor any feedback we receive to stay aware of any issues which arise.

“In addition, a new PFI scheme will see all of the county’s street lighting stock replaced over the next five years. The new, modern lighting system will provide a more consistent, better quality of light and will be much cheaper to run.”