Suffolk: Fears that street light switch-off plan may put public at risk

MULTIMILLION-pound plans to replace existing lights with lamps which can be dimmed or turned off at night have sparked fears for public safety.

Suffolk County Council is poised to spend �2.5 million on an “intelligent lighting system” on more than 55,000 street lights.

The system will enable street lamps to be dimmed and lighting hours to be controlled from a central location.

The county council claims the scheme will save about �500,000 a year. It also claims it will cut its carbon emissions.

As a rule, the proposals would see lighting turned off in residential areas between midnight and 5.30am and dimmed in other areas.

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The proposals - which the county council say are flexible and entirely open for discussion - are to be put to a working party at St Edmundsbury Borough Council next week.

But the idea has already met with strong resistance from some on the council.

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David Nettleton, chairman of the borough council’s overview and scrutiny committee, said: “I’m not in favour of switching them off at night.

“It seems to me to be a retrograde step that when it gets dark the lights go off and then come on again at 5.30am when it is light.”

Trevor Beckwith, an independent member of both the borough and county council, said: “I think it is putting financial savings before public safety. We keep hearing about the importance of the night-time economy but people have to produce that economy - the patrons, the staff and so on.

“I’m not supporting anything that does not put people’s wellbeing first.

“I also have doubts about the carbon emission reductions. I can see people driving rather than walking. We like what we’ve got and if thtis is such a good idea, why didn’t they do it years ago.”

But a spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “Suffolk County Council is currently in conversation with safer neighbourhood teams, parish and town councils on how best to implement the new intelligent lighting system in their areas.

“The system is an invest to save project, saving Suffolk taxpayers �550,000 a year in the energy bills that the council has to pay.

“We are however sensitive to local need which is why we’ve made it possible for street lighting to be left on for longer periods - or remaining on all night – where it’s necessary for safety.

“Information received from other local authorities that have implemented similar systems has not seen an increase in crime and often a decrease has been experienced.

“The system Suffolk County Council is implementing is fully adjustable and can be modified if required.”

A spokesman for Suffolk police: “Street lighting can deter crime and help people feel safe where they live and in our town centres. “We always recommend residential and business properties install good lighting to deter thieves and many CCTV systems cannot capture useful footage in the dark.

“However, we do understand the economic and environmental pressures on councils when considering such decisions.

“We will participate in the consultation for each area where the new lighting is considered to ensure the county council can make an informed decision.”

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