Campaigners protest at big light switch-off

PUBLISHED: 10:59 07 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:01 31 May 2010

Protesters are particularly worried about the dark Peaslands Alley - Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

Protesters are particularly worried about the dark Peaslands Alley - Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

ANGRY residents have spoken out in force against Essex County Council s proposal to switch off streetlights in Saffron Walden next February. Angela Foster, of Tukes Way, took to the town s streets on Saturday with a petition designed to show the council h

ANGRY residents have spoken out in force against Essex County Council's proposal to switch off streetlights in Saffron Walden next February.

Angela Foster, of Tukes Way, took to the town's streets on Saturday with a petition designed to show the council how many people in the town are against the idea.

Of 103 people that she approached, 101 signed the petition, suggesting massive opposition to the plans.

She said: "I only spent two hours conducting the petition, but I think I would have got the same negative response to the switch-off if I'd spent two weeks doing it.

"I decided to carry it out as all of my friends and neighbours were against the idea, and I'm angry that someone in Chelmsford can decide something like this without properly consulting the people of Saffron Walden.

"It is arrogant and presumptuous - something like this should have been more widely consulted with the people it will affect."

Mrs Foster stressed she was not against averting climate change, but that she thought there were better ways of doing so. "I'm certainly not anti-green," she said.

"I just think that instead of plunging the town into darkness, they should convert streetlights to energy-efficient lighting, street by street, or switch off alternate lights.

"There's more to think about here than just saving energy - there are legitimate safety concerns too."

If Essex County Council goes ahead with its plans, 93 per cent of the town's streetlights will be switched off for five hours every night from midnight to 5am.

Only parts of the town centre will remain lit; residential areas will have no street-lighting at all.

Mrs Foster has sent copies of her petition to Essex County Cllr Rodney Bass, cabinet member for highways and transportation, and Sir Alan Haselhurst, MP for Saffron Walden.

Sir Alan said he thought the county council's suggestions warranted serious consideration, but that they should not rush into a decision.

He said: "It's not exactly a totally extraordinary idea to consider whether or not we need lights on overnight.

"There is not necessarily a correlation between lights and public safety, although I recognise this is a valid concern.

"There has not been an avalanche of letters of protest arriving on my desk on this matter - in fact over the years I have had more complaints from people over the intrusion of artificial lighting than the lack of it."

"However, I am pleading with the county council that they allow more time to fully consider the way forward."

Essex County Cllr Rodney Bass said: "We are perfectly willing to listen to arguments from residents who argue that certain lights, or certain streets, remain lit.

"However, I would be less impressed by people suggesting that they simply 'don't like it'.

"I would be far more amenable to a more reasoned approach.

"To make all the streetlights more energy-efficient is a project that we are undertaking in the future, but it will take up to 50 years and cost millions of pounds."

The consultation period ends on December 11. Any representations should be sent to Essex County Council, County Hall, Market Road, Chelmsford CM1 1LX.

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