Kent County Council considers switching off 70,000 streetlights after midnight
Street lights around Gravesend
Thousands of streetlights across the county are set to be switched off as part of a drive by Kent County Council to cut spiralling energy costs.
Within a month, work will get under way to pull the plug on 3,000 streetlights - and if there are no complaints after a year-long trial, they will be removed altogether.
But a more far-reaching proposal now out for consultation could see another 70,000 of Kent's 120,000 lights switched off for long periods during the night as part of an initiative county transport chiefs will save the taxpayer £1m a year.
That could mean lights being dimmed between midnight and the early hours of the morning.
The move will trigger concerns that it could lead to more crime and accidents, but KCC insists that other areas who have already embarked on a switch-off say neither has happened.
And it says no lights will be switched off in town centres, areas with CCTV, antisocial behaviour areas, at busy road junctions, roundabouts or accident blackspots.
The politician in charge of Kent's roads says that having lights on for long periods when they are not needed had become "an incredible luxury" and the council was only proposing doing what most people did in their own homes.
Cllr David Brazier (Con), cabinet member for highways, said: "We are taking a safe and sensible approach. We want to ensure we make the best use of Kent taxpayers' money.
Kent County Council could switch off street lights in a bid to save cash
"We propose switching off lights when they don't need to be lit. This is the most effective way of saving energy, very much like a householder turning off lights at night when going to bed."
He added: "Rising electricity costs are a reality and will continue to go up year on year.
"Next year we face a bill of £6.4million for street lights and the associated carbon tax.
"A considerable amount is spent on lighting streets in the early hours and we believe we can save around 20% - that's more than £1million - by turning lights off when they don't need to be lit. These proposals would save 5,000 tonnes of carbon emissions."
Plans to reduce the operating hours of 70,000 others would involve them being fitted with timers, meaning they light at dusk before go off at about midnight. They would then come back on in early morning.
Kent County Council's director of highways John Burr acknowledged that opinion was divided over the issue, describing it as "our Marmite project."
At the same time, the consultation on the year-long trial had indicated many communities supported the idea.
He said: "If it becomes clear that crime or accidents have gone up where we have switched them off, then we will switch them back on again. But there is no concrete evidence from statistics that levels of crime are affected by whether the lights are on."
The county council has already discussed its proposals with Kent Police, local councils and 12 transportation boards, where local councillors discuss transport issues.
For more details on the plans and to see how your area could be affected, go to the council's streetlights web page.
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