The politician in charge of Kent’s street light switch-off 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 in an incident in Ashford 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 switched 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 switch-off had sparked complaints from residents about safety and crime.
But he downplayed concerns about rising crime, 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.”
“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" - Cllr David Brazier
The council had consulted with Kent Police and where it had voiced reservations, the planned switch off had been scrapped, he added.
Gravesham county councillor Colin Caller (Lab) said KCC should have listened more closely to residents’ concerns before the switch off.
“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 some local information.”
He added: “There are some areas where there is still full lighting and others where there is a total blackout.”
Under the programme, KCC is switching off 2,500 surplus street lights on a trial basis for a year.
It is also converting 70,000 street lights to part-night operation. The changes will reduce annual energy costs by about £1 million and carbon emissions by 5,000 tonnes.