Cost cutting council calls for ‘part time’ blackouts in Chelmsford

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PART-night street-lighting is expected to begin in Braintree and Chelmsford next month in a bid to cut costs and reduce the county’s carbon footprint.

Cllr Rodney Bass, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation is due to consider a recommendation that Essex County Council (ECC) owned street-lights in Braintree and Chelmsford will be switched off for five hours each night between midnight and 5am, unless they meet agreed exemption criteria.

Areas such as town centres, key road junctions and lighting installed on safety grounds for accident cluster sites will be exempt from the proposal.

Consultations around the introduction of part-night lighting in Braintree and Chelmsford took place in 2012. This gave parish and town councils, the Borough/City

Council, county councillors and the emergency services the opportunity to make any requests for areas that should not be included in the scheme. Those that met the exemption criteria have now been excluded.

ECC has been running a part- night lighting scheme in Maldon and Uttlesford since 2007. where 5,000 street lights were switched off between midnight and 5am. ECC said the pilot demonstrated no negative impact on crime statistics or road collisions as a result of the changes.

However one Maldon street saw a surge in crime after the switch off – and after arguing their case through petitions and public meetings the Council did a U-turn and switched street lights in King Street back on.

County Councillor Rodney L Bass, cabinet member for highways & transportation said: “I welcome this report. Extending part-night lighting will deliver significant reductions to our energy consumption and related expenditure. I can assure residents that this is not a decision that has been taken lightly, and we have had successful pilot schemes running since 2007. We will be monitoring the impact of the move to part-night lighting in Braintree and Chelmsford, and can make alterations to the scheme if necessary.”

ECC has introduced a new Central Management System (CMS) for street-lighting across Essex, allowing streetlights to be controlled remotely from a single location. It will also provide instant notification of any streetlight failure, which will mean faults can be repaired quickly.

All ECC owned streetlights will be switched to the CMS – including those which are not being switched to part-night hours. This is to ensure that efficiency is improved across all streetlights.

The Council also says new technology like LED’s and solar power is currently not suitable for highway lighting in Essex as it is uneconomical.

Chelmsford City Councillor Mark Springett told the Enquirer not only was he concerned about residents safety and an increased risk of crime but wanted to know why LEDs were not an option. He said: “The number one issue is public safety, if you turn lights off then you will see crime going up. If streetlights make no difference to crime rates then why do we have them anyway? The fear of crime is also an issue for many elderly residents. If you hear a noise at night and then go to the window, with street lights you can see who is about. Without them streets will be in complete darkness.

“Chelmsford also has licensed premises for 15,000 people and when you go into town on a Friday night there are thousands of people. Locals will walk home but risk walking home in the dark. Taxi firms are probably going to double their profits! LED lights need to be looked into both as cost saving and light pollution as modern LEDs can focus to a specific area and reduce glow back up into the night sky.”

Plans for consultation on the roll-out of part-night street- lighting in the remaining districts and boroughs in Essex will be announced shortly.

Lighting for bus shelters, road signs, traffic bollards etc is not affected by the proposal.

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