Essex street lights switch-off plan

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Plans have been approved to switch off most street lights across Essex each night between midnight and 0500 BST to save £14m over the next 13 years.

Essex County Council piloted the scheme in Maldon and Uttlesford in July 2006.

Under the plan, which will see it rolled out to the rest of the county, 70% of lights will be switched off, but high streets, major junctions and transport hubs would remain lit.

Some residents raised fears about the impact on road safety and crime rates.

At a meeting at county hall in Chelmsford, cabinet members agreed to award a £6.52m contract to Plextek Ltd to fit new sensors on street lights over the next two years.

Each street light currently has an individual sensor which turns the light on automatically when it becomes dark.

'Cut carbon emissions'

Under the new contract, these will be replaced by software which allows each light to be controlled remotely and set to switch off overnight.

The Conservative-controlled authority said that as well as saving money the move would cut carbon emissions by 8,000 tonnes per year.

Tracey Chapman, cabinet member for highways and transport, said worries about crime rates and road safety were not proved to be correct in the pilot schemes.

Ms Chapman added: "If there is an issue or a problem we can turn those lights back on again within 20 minutes."

Leader of the council's Labour group Julie Young said: "Once again we're seeing Tory-led government cuts, designed in Downing Street coming to the streets of Essex."

Essex County Council said it would consult with district, borough and parish councils and the emergency services before deciding which lights to switch off and which to keep lit all night.

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