Thousands of Suffolk street lights to be switched off

SUFFOLK is set to become a duller place at night as thousands of street lights are switched off during the early hours each day.

The move is being proposed by the cash-strapped county council as a way of cutting costs and boosting claims that Suffolk is the greenest place in Britain.

Next week’s meeting of the council’s cabinet will be asked to accept a proposal to replace existing county council-owned street lights with those run under an “intelligent lighting system.”

This would see most lights on poles of six metres and below switched off between midnight and 5.30am.

Lights on poles higher than this would be dimmed to 80% of power between 9pm and midnight every day and to 60% of power between midnight and 5am.

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Some areas would be exempt from the changes – especially where there are safety concerns.

There are to be further studies at areas such as busy junctions, bus stops, level crossings, or in areas where there are concerns about high crime rates.

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Installing the “intelligent lighting system” would cost the council an extra �2.5 million which would be funded by a special loan.

Taking the repayments of this loan into account the changes should save the council �390,000 a year – rising to �490,000 if electricity costs increase as significantly as is currently predicted.

County councillor with responsibility for transport Guy McGregor said the changes had been discussed with the police and would only be brought in if they did not impact on public safety.

He said: “We need to reduce costs and this is a good saving to make, both from the financial point of view and saving energy.

“We shall not reduce any lighting unless we are sure it will be safe to do so – and we are talking to the police on this.

“But I am sure there will be parts of the county where people will be pleased to have more dark nights.

“There is some evidence that in some places switching off street lights deters crime because if youngsters cannot see to gather at night they just drift away home out of harm’s way.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Inga Lockington said in some areas there was confusion about who was responsible for street lights.

“I know that in some streets in Ipswich it is the responsibility of the borough in others it is a county matter, and that is the case with districts and parishes all over the county.

“I think this needs to be examined very, very closely before any final decision is made,” she said.

And Labour group leader Sandy Martin was also cautious.

“If you find all the street lights turned off in an area that would be very worrying. We would oppose that. But if, as in some places, they are talking about switching off every other light during the early hours that might well be reasonable.

“It is something that needs to be considered carefully before any final decision is made.”

Light facts:

The county council owns 55,000 street lights in the county (40,000 are more than six metres high).

Parish, district, and borough councils own a further 11,250 lights.

The proposed changes will reduce CO2 production by 4,150 tonnes by April 2013.

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