Ipswich: Concern for elderly people as town’s lights to be turned off

IPSWICH: Campaigners voiced concerns today as council chiefs pressed ahead with a scheme to make the town a darker place at night.

Street lights are set to be turned off or dimmed in Ipswich as part of Suffolk County Council’s attempts to cut carbon emissions and save money.

The scheme, which is set to be rolled out in five stages from Sunday until December 5, aims to save the council more than �500,000.

It comes after a string of early-hours sex assaults in the town in recent weeks.

But council chiefs believe the move will not lead to an increase in crime.

The plans were first implemented in Needham Market and Brandon, and next week the lights of Ipswich will be switched off or dimmed between midnight and 5.30am.

The county council has been consulting with police, county councillors and the borough council on which street lights should be kept on at night and which can be turned off.

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But today, the chief executive of a charity which offers support to the older generations, said that losing street lighting could leave pensioners feeling scared and isolated.

A spokeswoman for the county said council chiefs would continue to work alongside police once the project is implemented and that the system was adjustable and open to modification.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age UK Suffolk, said: “While I understand that councils are seeking to save costs, we at Age UK Suffolk do have some concerns in relation to the impact on older people living in, or visiting, Ipswich.

“Research shows that older people have a disproportionate fear of crime when compared with the actual levels of crime against elders.

“However, that fear can lead to some older people becoming socially isolated as they then fear going out and that has a negative impact on their general wellbeing. Losing street lights in the evening may make that worse.”

County councillor with responsibility for transport, Guy McGregor, said: “We are saving carbon emissions and it will save us �500,000 a year. As energy prices go up, the savings will be greater.”

He said he believed that turning off lights would not lead to an increase in crime and argued that it would have the opposite effect.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said officers had been working alongside the county council during the decisions over street lighting. He said that officers would continue to heed concerns as the changes take place.

n For more information, visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/streetlighting

n Sex assault accent clue – page 15.