COUNCIL bosses have tried to soothe the fears of Hucknall residents, who are concerned that switching off street lights could lead to an increase in crime.
In a cost-cutting exercise, Notts County Council hopes to save £1 million every year by switching off or dimming most lights in some residential areas, including in the Dispatch district, between midnight and 5.30 am.
When originally announced, the move caused uproar. But now a spokesman for the authority has said many lights will not be altered, especially those near accident blackpots or areas with higher-than-average crime-rates.
Coun Richard Jackson (Con), the council’s Cabinet member for transport and highways, said: “The council has been working closely with the emergency services and is monitoring affected streets to make sure that crime and collision rates do not rise.
“There is a lot of scaremongering going on surrounding the street-light scheme, with some people claiming, without foundation, that crime and road accidents are bound to increase.
“We have looked very carefully at other councils throughout the country who have already carried out similar schemes, to learn from their experiences, and they have told us collisions and crime do not increase.”
Coun Jackson said the council did not want people in the county to live in fear for their lives and property as a result of the plans.
He added: “We believe it is a commonsense way to make savings of more than £1 million every year — and that is more money which can be spent on helping keep the county’s roads in good order.”
The original uproar was led by Ashfield councillor Chris Baron, a former Hucknall Labour representative on the county council, who spoke out against the plans.
Coun Baron told a meeting of the Reach Out Residents group in Hucknall that the town would become a haven for anti-social behaviour if the switch-off went ahead.
He said almost all of the west of Hucknall would be plunged into darkness between 11 pm and 6 am.
The only roads to escape, he said, would be the bypass and Watnall Road. Even Nabbs Lane was not a big enough thoroughfare to be kept lit, he claimed.
“It would be a thieves’ charter,” Coun Baron told the meeting, which was held at Holgate Comprehensive School. “There will be people with hoods on in the dark and, before you know it, you could be jumped on.
“Pedestrians will fall off the footpaths because they cannot see where they are walking. We will end up with people with broken ankles.”
The county council hopes to complete the street lights adjustment by 2014. It predicts that switching off or dimming lights will also save 26% of the current energy used.