MONEY-SAVING methods led by Tory controlled Nottinghamshire County Council has brought a Labour outcry after trials turning off street lighting has resulted in a decision to roll out the programme county-wide.
Following a trial period, which took place in Bassetlaw and Rushcliffe, community consultation has resulted in feedback filled with concern over crime rates and safety on the streets.
Despite this, the council will continue with its plans to save energy bills by increasing the blackout programme and forging ahead with a dimming initiative and other measures.
“The Conservatives are being reckless and their decision to dim the lights without consulting residents shows a lack of respect for local people and an utter disregard for the safety of Nottinghamshire residents,” said Labour county councillor Kevin Greaves - lead opposition for transport and highways.
With £4million spent each year on energy for the county’s street lighting, road signs, bollards and traffic signals, it is hoped these new methods will save money giving extra funding for road repairs and other necessities.
The scheme includes dimming of some lights on main roads between the hours of 10pm and 7am when traffic flows are low and a lower level of lighting will not affect road safety and switching off some lights between midnight and 5.30am (plus or minus 15 minutes) in residential areas.
Coun Greaves added: “Every other week there is a new farce over the ever-changing County Hall street lighting policy - have they actually saved any money yet? Why don’t they strike a blow for common sense and leave local street lights alone?”
But the objections and criticisms are being rejected by Conservative councillor and chairman of the Transport and Highways committee, Coun Richard Jackson.
“We have consulted with the police and according to the 12 month crime and accident data taken from the 32 areas where the scheme has been trialled, there has only been two areas where night-time crime has increased,” explained Coun Jackson. “Public concern is based on perception and fear rather than reality.”
With 15 per cent of the department’s budget being spent on energy bills it is estimated that through these methods, £1.5 million in annual savings can be realised.
However the council say they will be looking at each area individually and speaking with community leaders and police to find out their particular requirements.
Coun Jackson added: “We will maintain full lighting in areas that need it like busy junctions, accident blackspots and crossings. We will also avoid areas like factories where shift workers are employed and shops which are open 24 hours.”
Other ways of saving money are also being explored. One way is by using alternative light sources.
The council is engaging energy companies in trials with LED street lighting which is estimated to be more economically viable - reducing energy consumption by 40 per cent. LED also have a longer life-span and the added benefit of less on-going maintenance costs.
Four companies will be trialling their products in different parts of the county. Surveys and questionnaires will then be carried out to determine the outcome of the trials.
If these energy-saving initiatives result in reduced CO2 it may also attract external funding.