Barry Peters: Something special out there in the darkness

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Will crime rocket once all the street lights in Bury St Edmunds have been turned off?

I guess no-one will know until we’ve experienced a few months in the dark.

I just want to allay any fears, if possible, and look at some positives.

I grew up in the middle of the Fens . . . there weren’t many lights around in the 1970s out there. What there were, were mostly around busy junctions (though come to think of it, we didn’t really have many of those either).

As a child, one of the real delights was gazing up at the night sky and making out the different star patterns . . . the Plough, the Little Dipper. These were crystal clear without the glare of big city lights to dim their brightness.

One of the other joys was getting on my shiny new red Raleigh Chopper (that was my best Christmas gift, ever) and plonking on one of those plastic Ever Ready lights on the front and a huge one on the back, too. The weight of the batteries meant you had to re-inflate your tyres. Then, lights beaming, it was off to a friend’s house. I think battery technology has come on since then – we managed a couple of journeys before mum had to buy new batteries.

Racing around on bikes – or simply running – always seemed so much faster in the dark.

I even hoped my school sports day could be re-scheduled for a night-time so that I could win the 100m sprint. But it never was.

Back to 2011 and the figure of 45p has been bandied about in Bury. That’s the cost per taxpayer to keep all the street lights turned on.

If crime does show an increase – or personal safety becomes an issue – then the money will have to be found.

In the meantime, the flip side is that we might just inspire a few children to gaze skywards, use some imagination . . . and unhook themselves from their computer/mobile/X-Box for a few minutes.

Barry Peters is editor of the Bury Free Press.