CONTROVERSIAL plans to switch off lighting along a notorious footpath to stop people from using it at night have been abandoned.

Southampton City Council and the police wanted to turn off the street lights on Lovers Walk, in Highfield, after a series of serious assaults, including a sex attack on a young woman and a number of robberies.

The decision - doing the exact opposite of what people would expect to make an area safer and creating a no-go area - angered those who use the path every day.

Residents, cyclists and university students said that they hadn't been consulted and feared that the proposed scheme would put more lives at risk.

Following a two-month consultation it was decided to scrap a planned trial to switch off the lights, which was due to start shortly.

The council and police yesterday pledged to make the pathway safer, but refused to commit to improving the lighting, installing CCTV or increasing patrols.

For now, the lights will remain on and overgrown shrubs will be removed along the designated cycle path that links Burgess Road with Highfield Avenue.

The council will also look further at plans to better signpost alternative routes.

Councillor Royston Smith, Cabinet member for economic development and regeneration, said that the current measures would be monitored over the coming months and reviewed again in November.

"It is clear from the concerns we received from the public that the majority of people do not want the lights to be turned off along this route," Cllr Smith said. "We have listened to these concerns. It is of paramount importance that our residents can feel safe and secure wherever they are in the city. We will be reviewing safety along the route and will continue to monitor the route with the university and the police."

Councillor John Hannides, whose constituency of Bassett includes Lovers Walk, confirmed that the Tory Cabinet would investigate installing CCTV.

Jerry Gillen, chairman of the Highfield Residents' Association, welcomed the U-turn and said that turning off the lights would have been a "perverse" way of encouraging public safety.

Lindsi Bluemel, from the Southampton Cycling Campaign, and Southampton University Students' Union president Sarah Moore both said that an increased police presence in the area was the most effective way to improve safety.