Published: 08:00, 02 May 2014
Streets across Maidstone are due to be darker for longer as a part-time switch off of street lights takes effect this week.
Meanwhile the politician in charge of the consultation has promised the county council will take a second look at areas where there are valid concerns about increased crime and safety.
It comes as the county council faced a claim thieves got away from the police because officers could not find the suspects in the dark.
At the same time research has found that in 2011-12, 324 more people were killed or seriously injured in crashes at night in the UK where street lights were off than the previous year.
Cllr David Brazier (Con), the cabinet member for roads at KCC, was confronted by claims from county councillors this week that the plans had sparked complaints from residents about safety and crime.
But he downplayed concerns, telling a meeting of KCC’s backbench transport cabinet committee that most burglaries took place during the day.
“It [crime] is a very real fear and we do understand that but it is not borne out by the evidence. We do intend to review and if crime does increase, we will consider what action to take.”
The council had consulted with police and where it had voiced reservations, the planned switch-off had been scrapped, he added.
Under the changes bulbs will go out between midnight and 5.30am. The changes have already taken place in Tonbridge and Malling and are taking effect this week in Maidstone.
Councillor Colin Caller (Lab) said KCC should have listened more closely to people’s concerns before killing off lights.
“I accept the purpose and the need to save money. However, I am concerned why we relied on just Kent Police and did not go out and find local information.”
He added: “There are some areas where there is still full lighting and others where there is a total blackout.”
KCC is switching off 2,500 surplus street lights on a trial basis for a year. It is converting 70,000 street lights to part-night operation. The changes should reduce energy costs by £1 million and carbon emissions by 5,000 tonnes.
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