Tragedy fuels call for lights re-think

By Laura Maltby Thursday 13 December 2012 Updated: 17/12 08:25

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Taxi company owner Dil Ramzan is campaigning to have streetlights switched back on at night. Picture by Jon Mullis 50.012.012.leam.jm1

TAXI drivers are urging council chiefs to turn streetlights back on at night following the death of a teenager in Leamington - less than a week after the start of the controversial cost-cutting switch-off.

Archie Wellbelove, an 18-year-old Warwick University student - was killed on Friday morning (December 7) after being hit by a taxi while walking out of Leamington on the Kenilworth Road around 3.45am.

Cash-strapped Warwickshire County Council took the decision to switch off streetlights in certain areas from midnight until 5.30am in a bid to save £500,000 a year. The council's ruling Tories pushed through the plans in October, just days after revealing they planned to bring forward the switch-off in Warwick district by four months to December 1.

The owner of a local taxi firm branded the move "completely irresponsible".

Dil Ramzan, of Leamington-based My Taxis, said: “The council have made a howling error. They are implementing cost-cutting measures that put the public at risk. As taxi drivers we simply cannot see anything on the roads any more and this is extremely worrying for both drivers and passengers.

"I've been driving for 16 years and I actually fear driving around the town now as people step into the road without even thinking about it.

"Before we could at least see people but now our peripheral vision has been taken away. Both taxi drivers and the public are petrified at night now and the council have no justification to risk their personal safety like this - it's completely irresponsible.

"The streetlights should be on in the hours of darkness regardless of cost - after all, what is the cost of a life?

"Someone with a bright future has died within the first week of the council turning the lights off. Surely that says something?"

Police even had to get the council to switch-on the streetlights so they could find Mr Wellbelove's body following the accident near the roundabout and the turn off to Stoneleigh.

Liberal Democrat county councillors pushed in vain for a delay to the switch-off until the new year, and the group's transport and highways spokesman, Coun David Johnston, reiterated their concerns this week.

He said: “To implement such a change in December is reckless. We have grave concerns about it.

“Christmas and New Year are the busiest periods of the year for late night revellers, often making their way home on foot.”

A spokesman from Warwickshire County Council said they were unable to comment during the police investigation.

He added: "We have always said we would be flexible and switch lights back on in areas if requested by the emergency services and we did so in this case immediately."

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A police appeal for witnesses to the tragic accident on the Kenilworth Road. 50.012.011.leam.jm1

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Warwick University student Archie Wellbelove from Bedfordshire who died after being hit by a taxi on the unlit Kenilworth Road. (s)

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