Suffolk street lights face big switch-off

THOUSANDS of street lights across Suffolk could be switched off in the early hours of the morning in a bid to cut costs.

The move is being proposed by cash-strapped Suffolk County Council as a way of saving money and boosting claims that the county is the greenest in Britain.

Next week the council's cabinet will be asked to accept replacing existing county council-owned street lights with those run under an 'intelligent lighting system.' This would involve most lights on poles of six metres and below being switched off between midnight and 5.30am.

Lights on higher poles would be dimmed to 80 per cent of power between 9pm and midnight every day and to 60 per cent of power between midnight and 5am. Some areas would be exempt from the changes – especially where there are safety concerns.

There are to be further studies at areas such as busy junctions, bus stops, level crossings, or in areas where there are concerns about crime.

Installing the system would cost the council an extra �2.5m which would be funded by a loan. Taking the loan repayments into account the changes should save the council �390,000 a year – rising to �490,000 if electricity costs increase as predicted.

County councillor with responsibility for transport, Guy McGregor, said the changes would only be brought in if they did not impact on public safety.

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'We need to reduce costs and this is a good saving to make, both from the financial point of view and saving energy,' he said. 'We shall not reduce any lighting unless we are sure it will be safe to do so – and we are talking to the police on this. But I am sure there will be parts of the county where people will be pleased to have more dark nights.'

Liberal Democrat councillor Inga Lockington said in some areas there was confusion about who was responsible for street lights. 'I know that in some streets in Ipswich it is the responsibility of the borough in others it is a county matter, and that is the case with districts and parishes all over the county. I think this needs to be examined very, very closely before any final decision is made,' she said.

Labour group leader Sandy Martin was also cautious.

'If you find all the street lights turned off in an area that would be very worrying. We would oppose that,' he said.

'But if, as in some places, they are talking about switching off every other light during the early hours that might well be reasonable.'