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Councillor to campaign against Sherborne street lights switch-off

By Western Gazette - Sherborne  |  Posted: October 04, 2012

Councillor Anne O'Grady

Councillor Anne O’Grady has pledged to spearhead a campaign to reverse the money-saving street light switch-off in the town after being inundated with pleas from fearful residents as well as suffering a scary experience herself in the darkness

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A town councillor says she will campaign against a street-light switch-off in Sherborne after being inundated with pleas from worried residents.

Councillor Anne O’Grady, 73, of Ridgeway, was approached by residents scared for the safety of loved ones after the town’s streets were plunged into darkness as part of a county-wide money-saving scheme.

She said people have asked her if she can organise a petition against the changes.

Mrs O’Grady said: “I have had people coming up to me in the street saying they are scared for the safety of their family members, particularly their older relatives.”

She said her decision to fight the changes was also motivated by her own experience.

She said: “I had been babysitting for a friend and it was past midnight when I left.

“It was only a short walk to my house but I’d forgotten the switch-off had started and did not have a torch.

“It was like walking into hell. I was absolutely terrified and I could not see in front of me.

“If someone had come up behind me and attacked me I would have been dead.”

Dorset County Council organised the switch-off in a bid to reduce energy bills as part of plans to save £57m over three years.

Areas affected include Ridgeway, Noake Road and Newland. The switch-off takes place between midnight until 5.30am every night but will only switch back on again at 6.30am if it is still dark.

Mrs O’Grady said: “This can only bring disaster especially in the run up to Christmas.

“If people are walking with shopping bags full of presents and money they could be a target in the darkness.

“I live on my own like many others in this area. What kind of life are we living if we can’t go out after midnight?”

Mrs O’Grady had objected to plans for the scheme when they were first discussed last year.

She said: “I had real concerns but I was shouted down.

“I will most definitely be talking about this problem at the next meeting this month.

“Even if we could just have every second light on, that would help.”

Other residents have complained that lights are not coming back on when they should be, making it difficult to walk to work early in the morning.

Town councillor Matt Hall said: “The lights are coming back on at 6.30am but only for five minutes.”

A spate of more than 17 incidents of criminal damage, which took place in the town three nights after the switch-off, sparked fears that the two were linked. Offenders broke house and shop windows.

Police said they also severely damaged cars, garden walls, fences and plant pots at locations including Ridgeway, Springfield Crescent, Newland, Acreman Street, Horsecastles Lane, Greenhill, South Avenue, Lenthay Road, and South Court.

Sergeant Ged Want said police believed the incidents to be isolated.

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