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Streetlights in New Forest could be dimmed further amid Hampshire County Council cost-cutting

STREETLIGHTS in the New Forest could be dimmed even further as cash-strapped county council tries to save £500,000 per year – but there are fears it would make women and girls feel even more unsafe.

If approved, the time streetlights are switched off overnight would be extended and others would have their brightness reduced by as much as 80% from April 2025.

Hampshire County Council said the move would contribute towards addressing the council’s £132 million budget deficit, saving £500,000 each year.

Street lights (stock picture)
Street lights (stock picture)

It admitted fear of crime could be heightened in the darker streets, but there was “no evidence” to suggest the changes would lead to a rise in actual crime.

Dr Shonagh Dillon, chief executive of Aurora New Dawn, a women-led charity specialising in offering support to victims and survivors of stalking, domestic violence and abuse, and sexual violence, said “women do feel safe in well-lit areas” and any reduction of street lighting will “restrict” women and girls from certain areas.

Dr Dillon said: “The College of Policing advises that research evidences street lighting can reduce violent crime by up to 21%; it is possible that some offenders will view unlit areas as an opportunity to target victims because of their vulnerability.

“Although we cannot definitively claim that street lighting prevents sexual violence, and we know that perpetrators of sexual violence and harassment will use any means necessary to commit offences, the reality is that women do feel safer in well-lit areas.

“There is an important element in the freedom to feel safe as a woman or girl in Hampshire, and any reduction of street lighting will restrict women and girls from certain areas. This isolates women and girls and curtails their freedom to access certain areas, especially in the winter.”

An agreement between the council and Hampshire police has been in place since 2019 where officers can ask for lights to be turned on throughout the night as an emergency measure, as well as an emergency procedure for situations in which lights need to be turned on in response to an immediate incident.

If approved, the plans would see residential streets where the council already switches off lights between 1am and 4am extended by two hours per night so that lights are switched off from midnight until 5am.

This would not include the night of Christmas Eve into Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day, when the lights would remain on all night.

For streetlights on the classified road network, the county council has proposed to increase the dimming level to 45% from dusk to 11.30pm and 40% from 5.30am to dawn.

The proposal would not require physical interaction with streetlights since they could be controlled remotely and adjusted in real time.

Alternatives such as switching to LED lighting, using solar-powered lighting or motion-sensing switches have been considered; however, due to their unsustainability and cost, some of them are no longer for consideration.

Public consultation on the plans is open for residents until 31st March.

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