Streetlights to be turned off to cut costs in St Albans district

STREET lights are set to go out all over Herts as the county council looks to save money in the current financial climate.

The all-party county highways and transport cabinet panel is recommending turning off street lights completely in areas where few people walk at night. In urban areas, they are looking at part night lighting, where lights are turned off for some periods.

But there are no plans to reduce the number of fixed or mobile speed cameras in the county even though other local authorities have decided to scrap them.

Herts Highways will be drawing up detailed plans about street lighting for councillors to consider in January. Trials will follow shortly afterwards if it is agreed.

Should the county council go down the route of switching off street lights, they would join what is thought to be 75 per cent of local councils in the country considering taking the same step.

But many police forces fear that darkened streets will prove an incentive to muggers and burglars as well leading to more road accidents.

There is no statutory requirement on local authorities in the UK to provide public lighting but there are national carbon reduction targets which have to be met or fines will be imposed

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The county’s 115,000 street lights cost around �10 million a year to run and electricity costs alone account for a third of the street lighting budget. The energy used is responsible for around 22,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and the carbon-reduction.

Cllr Stuart Pile, the executive member for highways and transport, said: “We appreciate that plans to switch off some street lights may cause concern. As well as consulting with the police, we have been researching the impact of switching off street lights in other counties so that we will be well informed about the areas where lighting should be maintained.

“The panel agreed that part night lighting - when lights are turned off for certain hours during the night - should be explored along with turning lights off completely in some areas.”

Among the other cost-cutting measures the panel has looked at is the current level of bus provision and the subsidy for contracted bus services with a view to reducing the council’s passenger transport budget from �7.6 million to �5.2 million.

Cllr Pile said it would inevitably have an impact on the number of bus services in the county although he pledged to try and maintain the best possible bus network within the funding available. A new bus strategy will be released during the next six months which the public will have a chance to comment on.

School crossing patrols are to be maintained but the panel is recommending looking at the possibility of sharing future provision with schools or other organisations. And funding will continue for the Herts Safety Camera Partnership despite the unpopularity of speed cameras.

Cllr Pile added: “The latest figures show that in Herts we continue to see a reduction in the number of people that are killed or seriously injured in collisions at camera sites - a 64.4 per cent reduction at fixed camera sites and 39.5 per cent at mobile camera sites.

“By reducing staff levels and maintenance work to accommodate the end of government funding in this area, we have found a way to continue this good work during these difficult financial times.”