Essex: Part-night street lighting set to go countywide


- Credit: Archant © 2010

Proposals to switch off street lights across Essex for five hours each night will see communities have a countywide blackout forced upon them, opponents say.

Essex County Council (ECC) is currently consulting on the introduction of a part-night street lighting scheme across the county following a pilot project in Maldon and Uttlesford where some lights have been switched off between midnight and 5am since 2007.

The authority now wants to roll out part-night street lighting across the county’s remaining eight districts and boroughs by February 2014 in a bid to cut carbon emissions and save an estimated £1million a year in electricity bills. Areas exempt from the switch-off include town centres, key road junctions and accident blackspots.

But opposition councillors are critical of the failure to offer communities lighting alternatives, such as low-level LED lighting and dimming the lights.

There are also concerns less light at night will increase the fear of crime, if not crime itself.

Critics say the council’s investment in a £6m remote management system, which can control all street lights across the county centrally, is a sign the council will forge ahead with its plans whatever the outcome of the consultation.

Part-night street lighting began in Braintree and Chelmsford at the start of the month, while Colchester is expected to follow on November 1. Under the current schedule street-lighting in Tendring will go part-time on January 1, 2014

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Deputy leader of the Labour group at ECC, Ivan Henderson, criticised the council’s “short-sightedness” in not following the examples of other councils such as Sheffield, York and Walsall, where the public were consulted with additional options.

He said: “The public have a right to know that this consultation put forward by ECC is not comprehensive enough considering other councils, which have provided the public with alternatives rather than a blanket switch-off.

“We call on the council to listen very carefully to the residents of Essex and acknowledge that their fears should not be ignored just because crime rates are falling in areas where there is part-night lighting. The council should be thinking about proposing potential alternatives to alleviate public concern.”

Liberal Democrat highways spokesman councillor Stephen Robinson has asked the council’s scrutiny committee to look at the consultation process.

He said: “We think that ECC should consider new-style, low-energy LED lights, lights controlled by movement sensors and other technology, instead of the switch-off.

“We know that the council has to save money and should also reduce its carbon footprint, but LED lights would reassure the public and be a more effective kind of lighting.”

In response, an ECC spokesman said: “The use of LED lighting has been thoroughly investigated and debated at member scrutiny panels, and at present it would be far too expensive to roll out such a scheme across a county the size of Essex. We will however continue to monitor this.

“It is important to note that the pilot schemes in Maldon and Uttlesford have been running since 2007, the decision to introduce part-night lighting county-wide was taken in 2010, and the contract for our Central Management System for street-lighting was awarded in 2011, so this is not a decision that has been taken lightly, or without due consideration.”