STREET LIGHTS across Kent will not be switched off to save money and cut the county council's spiralling energy bill, the Conservative politician in charge of the county’s roads has insisted.
In a rapid U-turn, KCC says it has ruled out the idea - just days after we reported how a senior official had told county councillors at a public meeting it could be on the agenda.
Cllr Keith Ferrin (Con), KCC's cabinet member for highways, overruled his own roads chief, saying he would not support any switch off because it would heighten the risk of road crashes.
"Every time you had a crash in an area where street lights were off, people would blame the fact that they were not on. When we did hear that this was being done in Essex, I made it very clear that I was dead against the proposal."
There were other ways in which KCC could bring down the £4.5million it costs to keep the county's 113,000 streetlights and 5,000 bollards on continuously, he added.
"We are trialling the use of LED street lights that use 22 watts instead of 83 watts and if we did that across the county, we could achieve a 75 per cent cut in our bill. That should be the way we go, rather than turning streetlights off."
Geoff Harrison-Mee, KCC's highways director, had indicated during a meeting of the council's Highways Board the option was under consideration.
"It is incredible that you can drive all the way down the M2 [which is managed by the Highways Agency] and you get to the Thanet Way [the A229, managed by KCC] and it is lit up like a Christmas tree all night," he said on January 8.
He added: "It is quite right and proper that we should look at all the options and it is very much on our radar. It is quite clear Kent Police would not want us to switch off lights in sensitive areas."
KCC has recently embarked on a programme of switching to low-energy light bulbs in all its traffic lights, saving more than £2million over six years.