Rape report alley is to get lights upgrade
CONCERNS have been raised over the safety of a city alleyway where an alleged rape took place.
Shop owner Roger Panter, who owns Panters Store in Sidwell Street, said he feared a serious incident could happen in the walkway between Sidwell Street and King William Street, and had been calling for something to be done.
"I have been complaining for years saying the alleyway is dangerous," he told the Echo.
"The bushes are extremely fast-growing and they don't cut them back and there is a lack of lighting."
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Detectives launched an investigation after a woman was allegedly raped in the alleyway next to St Sidwell's Church last month.
The area was cordoned off for several hours following the alleged attack while officers searched for forensic evidence.
Police arrested two men in connection with the alleged incident and both men, aged 23, were released on bail until next month.
Mr Panter, 52, has now called on Devon County Council, whose highways department is responsible for the alleyway, to make the area safer.
"We have got to make sure that the alley way is safe," he said.
"If they leave it the way it is, then it will be a potential danger spot. I'm 6ft 2in and even I don't feel safe in that alleyway at night.
"The councils blame each other and in the meantime nothing is being done, that is what gets me."
City councillor Keith Owen, who represents the area, said he proposed to raise the concerns with Exeter City Council.
"I would welcome any moves to make the area safer," he said.
"Exeter is a relatively safe place compared to other cities but incidents do occur. If we can do something to reduce the risk, then we should.
"I think this is something one of the council's scrutiny committees could look at.
"I propose to bring it to the attention of the other councillors."
Devon County Council said it was aware of the issues with lighting and overgrown vegetation around the alleyway and were planning to make improvements.
A spokeswoman for the authority said: "In response to requests from local businesses we cut back the Viburnum in the bed closest to King William Street last year, but this has grown back rapidly and is obscuring views through this space.
"However, we have asked St Sidwell's church to cut back the overgrown vegetation so we hope that this will greatly improve the natural light in the area
"The floodlights along Sidwell Street, from London Inn Square to Cheeke Street, are soon to be replaced with new ones, as part of the John Lewis store improvements in the area, so that should improve the standard of the lighting of this footpath from the Sidwell Street end.
"The lantern at the King William Street end is old, so this will be replaced with one of a similar style, but more a modern unit, which should hopefully improve the light levels at this end of the footpath to a degree."
He added: "Lighting budgets are very tight presently so unfortunately Devon County Council is unable to install 'additional' street lights to those already in situ."