POLL - Attack victim’s plea to turn lights back on

Nadv 1209196AM Street lighting. (1209196AM)
Nadv 1209196AM Street lighting. (1209196AM)

A pensioner who escaped with his life after being beaten unconscious in Harrogate is calling on the county council to rethink its street lights policy.

The 66-year-old was viciously attacked as he walked home in High Harrogate shortly after midnight on Friday, October 26.

He was beaten and kicked repeatedly by a thug who tried to rob him, breaking his ribs, perforating his lung and lacerating his scalp.

Now, recovering at home after several days in hospital, he is calling on the council to end its contentious blackout.

“People are afraid of leaving their homes,” said the pensioner, who doesn’t want to be named. “I try to make light of what happened, but it was just horrendous.

“I could have died if I hadn’t been found when I was. ”

The pensioner, coordinator of the High Harrogate Neighbourhood Watch association, was attacked as he walked near Dragon’s View at 12.10am on Saturday, October 27.

He had been walking to the shop when he was approached by a man on a bike.

“He shouted some abuse, started demanding money, my wallet, my bank cards,” he said.

“He started kicking me, hitting me, getting more and more violent.

“I’m 66-years-old, how do I fight him?”

The pensioner was found unconscious by passing strangers, who stayed with him until paramedics arrived.

“I can’t understand the sheer violence,” he said.

“He carried on until I was unconscious. I just don’t understand it at all.”

After the attack, neighbours called an emergency meeting and the group, backed by ward councillor Richard Cooper, has launched a campaign to get the street lights switched back on.

The pensioner says that while better lighting might not have saved him from attack, it would certainly make him feel safer about being out on his own.“It’s inky black on the street,” he said. “I’ve lived here 36 years, I know these streets like the back of my hand. But it’s like the blackout from the war. I don’t go into certain areas now.”

At the moment, about 58 per cent of Harrogate’s street lights are switched off between the hours of midnight and 5am, a move introduced in September.

The measure is to be reviewed in 2013 before it is rolled out across the borough by 2014.

But the pensioner, backed by Coun Cooper, is calling on the council to review the issue sooner.

“I understand the need to reduce energy usage and I understand the need to save money,” said Coun Cooper, (Cons). “But when flaws are found in the way the policy has been implemented there needs to be a quick way of addressing that.

“Clearly the decision to black out whole areas has been a mistake and more lights should have been left on in some areas.”

Coun Cooper says he has received a spate of complaints from people who are too afraid to walk their dog late at night, who work in the early hours or who are just out and about when the lights are off.

“The review should be a rolling one which properly assesses the issues as and when they are raised,” he said.

“Switching off the streetlights is a big change to the way things are done. Big changes need to be handled more sensitively and when problems arise the county council needs to respond more quickly.”

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