Essex lights out project extends
A MASS street light switch off experiment is to be rolled out across Essex, driven by another huge hike in power costs.
The move to expand the scheme, which sees street lights turned off between midnight and 5.30am, is buoyed by a police report that crime in the two districts which trialled the scheme has actually fallen.
A review of the temporary scheme announced two years ago which started in Maldon and Uttlesford last year, has revealed it has been a success.
An official report by county highways chief, Cllr Norman Hume, who picked up the controversial scheme from his predecessor Rodney Bass, is set for publication by the end of the month.
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Sources unofficially say that since the scheme began electricity costs have rocketed from £27 a kilowatt hour to £86 a kilowatt hour, potentially upping countywide savings to taxpayers on the street lights bill from £1million to £3million a year.
Commenting on the scheme, a police spokesman said: “Essex is a very safe county and recorded crime figures for Dunmow and Saffron Walden between the hours of 11.30pm and 5.30am have borne this out.
“A year on year comparison for April 2006 to May 2007 and April 2007 to May 2008 has shown that night-time crime has almost halved in Saffron Walden and reduced by over a third in Dunmow.
“One of the factors raised by Essex Police following consultation with Essex County Council about the street lighting initiative was the fear of crime which must not be underestimated.”
Essex Police is broadly supportive of the street lighting initiative. The spokesman added: “Where there are specific areas of concern in respect of public safety Essex Police will engage in discussions with the council.”
There was a bad public reaction when the scheme was announced but the social impact has been monitored by the county council and emergency services during the experiment and Cllr Hume's report is expected to say the turn off has also reduced the county's carbon footprint.
When other urban areas fall in the scope of the scheme there will be a lot of opt outs. Lights will be doused on housing estates, but they will stay on in a mile radius of town centres.
In Chelmsford this is the distance from the Meadows to Chelmsford Prison.
Major roads, critical junctions, accident blackspots and higher crime areas are all treated as exempt from the blackout.
A county spokesman said: “We understand crime has fallen and electricity costs have gone up even more astronomically.
“However we are making no announcements until Cllr Hume's review is agreed with all partners.”