Councillor takes dim view on lighting plan

PUBLISHED: 15:15 22 November 2006 | UPDATED: 10:01 31 May 2010

THE full extent of Essex County Council s plans to switch off Saffron Walden s street lights was revealed this week. Maps received by the town council show that 93 per cent of the town s street lighting will be turned off for five hours every night when t

THE full extent of Essex County Council's plans to switch off Saffron Walden's street lights was revealed this week.

Maps received by the town council show that 93 per cent of the town's street lighting will be turned off for five hours every night when the pilot scheme is launched in February next year.

A county council spokesperson said: "There are 1,243 Essex County Council-owned street lights within the parish of Saffron Walden, although this figure does not include signs, bollards, beacons and underpasses, which will continue to operate from dusk until dawn.

"Of these, 1,156 will be included in the part-night trial where the light is turned off between 12am and 5am.

"Following consultations with the district council and the police, an exception list has been drawn up. Lights which fit this criterion will continue to operate throughout the night."

Town and district councillor Richard Freeman said that although the county council's intentions were good, their plans seem deeply flawed.

He said: "Switching off street-lights could be a very good idea - saving energy and minimising light pollution is fine, but my primary concern is for safety.

"One particularly dangerous alley, where there were attacks on Bell College students a few years ago, will now be in darkness.

"The town council paid for street lights to be installed there when the county council refused to, but these will now be out of action for five hours a night."

The alley runs between Peaslands Road and Old Mill Road. It is secluded and has a chicane in the middle, which further reduces visibility.

Cllr Freeman said: "It's bad enough in the light, it will be terrible in darkness."

Very few places in the town will remain permanently illuminated throughout the night.

George Street, King Street, the Market Square, Castle Street and the High Street between Castle Street and Debden Road are where the majority of lights will remain on.

A couple of junctions including where Chaters Hill meets Ashdon Road at the top of The Common will also stay lit, but the town's southern estates will have no street-lighting whatsoever.

Cllr Freeman added: "The Institute of Lighting Engineers has suggested switching off alternate lights, but the council's attitude seems rigidly to be either light a street or don't light it."

The council spokesperson said: "Other systems have been considered but will not be implemented at this time."

The street-lights will each be fitted with a £25 device that calculates the "solar midnight" - the exact halfway point between sunset and sunrise - and then switches off the light for five hours from that point.

Cllr Freeman called the technology "outmoded" and said that there should have been more consultation from the county council, which is expecting to save more than £1million per year from the £1.8million scheme.

Chief Inspector Paul Eveleigh of Essex police community safety department said: "Essex Police fully appreciates the county council's aims at reducing its costs and the potential saving for our communities. However, this initiative may well raise the cost of policing, the fear of crime and compensation claims which would be at the expense of those same communities."

"We will be fully monitoring the situation in conjunction with the council to ensure the best outcome for Essex residents.

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