WOMEN have spoken of their fear of walking alone through darkened streets at night as the Government pledges more cash to help make neighbourhoods safer.

Downing Street has also unveiled a plan to have plain clothes police officers patrol bars and nightclubs around the country to protect women from predatory offenders.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the “horrific case” of Sarah Everard had “unleashed a wave of feeling” about women not feeling safe at night.

Sarah was killed and her body dumped in woodland in Kent after she walked home across Clapham Common.

A doubling of the Safer Streets fund – which provides neighbourhood measures such as better lighting and CCTV – would see investment in the scheme top £45 million.

In a Gazette poll, 75 per cent of almost 100 respondents said they feel unsafe when walking home after a night out.

Annette Stevens told the Gazette: “As a single woman I would just like to highlight the need for our street lighting to be turned back on after midnight.

“On Sunday late evening I had to attend the Colchester Hospital as my dad was losing his fight for life.

“When I returned after him losing that fight in the early hours of Monday morning I had to park my car two streets away from my house in Canterbury Road, New Town.

“It was pitch black and I had to use the torch on my phone to see my way to my home. Please get these lights back on for everybody’s safety.”

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Colchester Council’s public safety boss Mike Lilley called for street lighting throughout the night to improve safety.

Essex County Council reduced street lighting hours in a bid to save money and carbon emissions.

Mr Lilley said: “The main complaints we have regarding not feeling safe at night would be the street lights going off. The first step would be for them to be kept on over the dark winter nights.

“I’m not sure if undercover police would work as it’s about having the officers to do that.

“Where would you place them? Seeing police patrol the streets in a visible presence would be my option, having a visible presence would help deter potential attackers.

“We would like money for more CCTV and would apply for that funding.”

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “Independent research has consistently shown that extending the time that street lights are on does not have demonstrable impact on crime.

"However, as the events that have taken place over the past two weeks have clearly demonstrated, the concerns raised about women’s safety in public places highlights a deep-rooted issue that extends beyond any quick fixes we can implement in haste.

“It is simply not acceptable that in today’s society women should fear being out alone at any time of the day or night in any part of Essex, from our busiest towns to our most rural of hamlets and we have a responsibility to understand and address these fears in the right way.

“In the days and weeks to come, we will be reaching out to women’s groups, our partners and other key stakeholders to begin conversations, to better understand their views and to gain insight into how we can address these important issues.

"Street lighting will form a part of this debate, but it will not be the whole debate. We are committed to listening and acting so that every resident of Essex remains safe and well.”

Speaking to the House of Commons, Home Secretary and Witham MP Priti Patel said: “Everyone should be free to walk our streets without the slightest fear.

“With Sarah and her family in my thoughts and prayers, I will continue to do all I can in my role as Home Secretary to protect women and girls.”

Protesters have taken to the streets of Clapham and Westminster in London to protest about street violence.

Mr Johnson added: “Ultimately, we must drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to better protect and defend them,” he said.

The Government said ministers were committed to working with police forces to ensure measures were more focused on preventing sexual violence.

Mr Johnson said it could mean siting measures in parks and routes used by women on their walks home.

Demonstrators again took to the streets of central London to protest at the policing of a vigil for Ms Everard on Saturday.

There were a number of arrests after the police ordered the protesters to disperse, warning they were in breach of coronavirus regulations.