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Street light changes which could save Suffolk County Council £90,000 meet mixed response

Street lights are going out earlier than ever after Suffolk County Council introduced its latest money-saving initiative.

Starting this week, lights in residential streets go out at 11.30pm instead of midnight, not coming back on until the later time of 6am.

The one-hour difference could save £90,000 and help to reduce the carbon footprint according to the county council, which implemented the change as part of its budget, however the move has received a mixed response.

Street lights will be going out in some areas according to new county council cost saving plans.. (8264735)
Street lights will be going out in some areas according to new county council cost saving plans.. (8264735)

Ernie Broom, chairman of the Howard Estate Association of Residents and Tenants, said: “Street lighting is something which has been raised at every meeting since the council started changing the timings (in 2010).

“This is an ageing estate – a lot of our people have been here since it was built – and changing street lighting increases the fear of crime and the fear of going out in the dark. A lot of people won’t want to go out.”

Elizabeth Hewett, Moreton Hall Estate resident, said: “I do think we need lighting to midnight all the time as folks walking home need it and it makes for a safer community for everyone.”

Fellow Moreton Hall resident Lynne Fisher said she thought the change was a ‘good idea’, while Julie Kennard said she initially thought the council had forgotten to adjust the lights when the clocks changed.

Nick Sibbett said the change would benefit Moreton Hall’s bat population and increase their hunting time, as many will not enter lit areas.

Kassie Johnson, of Moreton Hall, said: "I personally hate that they ever turn off. It makes me feel unsafe and makes it incredibly eerie for those that work odd hours to be coming and going."

Carol Bridges said: “I think it’s far safer to keep them on until midnight (and actually I would prefer it to be until 1am Friday and Saturday).

"A lot of people start work at 6am, so in the winter months I think they should stay at 5.30am.”

Mike Garling, who runs The LP bar and nightclub in Bury St Edmunds town centre, where street lights will stay lit overnight, said: “I am all up for saving money, although some economies only lead to greater costs down the line. The entire goal for us is for people to have a safe and enjoyable night out and we would not want that impacted negatively and would actively seek an encouraging stance from the authorities to facilitate that.".

Nick Lloyd, acting head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said street lighting improved safety for drivers, riders and pedestrians and promoted security.

“It is important councils do all they can to warn drivers, riders and walkers that street lights are being switched off or dimmed and to give advice about what they should do to protect themselves,” said Mr Lloyd.

“Pedestrians and vulnerable road users suffer from decreased visibility in the dark, too, with drivers finding it harder to see people. There’s also more potential for walkers to trip and fall over kerb edges, uneven paving and unseen obstacles.”

A Suffolk Highways spokesman said the change, covering 40,000 of its 57,000 street lights, would save about 422kw a year. The county council’s annual electricity bill for street lighting is £2.46 million.

He added ‘careful consideration’ had been given to the effects on factors including safety and crime.

Mark Stevens, assistant director operational highways at Suffolk Highways, said: “We need to explore how we can create efficiencies within the work we do. One such way is by reducing the length of time street lights are switched on.”

About 17,000 of Suffolk County Council’s lights – such as those in town centres – will continue to be lit throughout the night, while an intelligent lighting system could allow streets to be lit outside of normal times to help with incidents such as police investigations.

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