Suzy Lamplugh Trust is concerned at the growing trend within local authorities to save money by cutting down on street lighting. Whilst we understand that cuts are being made across many areas, we believe that lack of street lighting can increase the risks to public safety because the harder it is for someone to see danger approaching, the harder it is for them to try to get away from it.

In the majority of cases, the lights are ‘only’ being switched off from approximately midnight to 5am but that still affects a great number of people coming home from a night out and the many thousands of employees who work shifts. The Trust believes these workers have as much a right to safety as anybody out on the street during the day or early evening.

Suzy Lamplugh Trust has carried out a joint survey with the National Neighbourhood Watch Network regarding street lighting and the perceptions of crime. Over 15,000 people across the UK participated in this survey.

  • 38% of respondents had noticed changes in street lighting in their local communities in the last three years.
  • 46% of those respondents who noticed changes perceived them to be negative and as having a negative impact on their local community.
  • Whilst 92.9% of participants said they feel ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ safe in well-lit areas, only 22% said they do in unlit or poorly-lit areas.
  • Asked how dimming or switching off lighting affects their behaviour, 40% of respondents considered going out less, 65% avoided unlit areas.
  • 15% said that they would take taxis rather than walk.

The report can be read in full here

This indicates that not only can lack of or poor street lighting adversely affect the quality of life of a significant proportion of residents in the area but can also have repercussions for the night time economy (residents going out less) and the environment (more taxis used instead of walking or night buses).

Certain demographics are more likely to be affected than others, for example young people, who are more often out late; those with lower incomes, who are more dependent on walking or public transport; shift workers and women, who the survey indicates, are more likely to feel unsafe than males.

It is also important to note that the widely reported 2015 research by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as other research in the field does not necessarily support a blanket switching off/dimming of lights. Study co-author Professor Shane Johnson said:

"The study findings suggest that energy saving street lighting adaptations have not increased area level crime in the neighbourhoods studied. This is very encouraging but it is important to note that it does not mean that this will be the case under all conditions, and so changes to lighting should be managed carefully."

Suzy Lamplugh Trust thinks that councils need to take all of the above into account when planning changes to street lighting to avoid adversely affecting the quality of life of particular groups of residents.

Currently we do not believe that sufficient consideration has been given to the impact of reducing street lighting, we therefore support local campaigners to get the lights switched back on in their streets.