Dimmer overnight street lighting is set to save a North East council money but chiefs stand accused of overlooking rural communities.
Members of Durham County Council's cabinet met yesterday to agree its final Street Lighting Policy plans which officers believe will save the authority £24m over 25 years.
Around 45,000 street lights will be replaced with LED lights, which it says are cheaper and greener to run.
Around 7,000 lights, many in rural parts of the county, are also set to be removed altogether as officers consider them to be “redundant”. Lighting will also be dimmed by 24% between 10pm and by 50% from midnight to 5am.
The move was given the go-ahead despite concerns from the Disability Partnership that 10am was too early and it wished the lights to get brighter again earlier.
Following a trial period, however, the council says the dimming planned is imperceptible to the human eye and it is confident residents will be safe.
The meeting also heard there was strong opposition to the removal of street lighting in the towns of Blackhall and Easington, despite many lights failing to work due to the theft of overhead cables by metal thieves.
The plans also include a significant amount of lighting reduction in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the south west of the county.
Coun John Shuttleworth, independent member of the authority for the rural Weardale area, said the plans will lead to higher levels of crime in rural areas such as his and could eventually cost the authority more money.
He said: “These plans are discriminating against people in rural areas. Crime will increase. The council may be saving money in one area but we will be losing it in the police budget.”
However, the Cabinet member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, Coun Brian Stephens, said the plans help the council to meet its green targets and the LED replacements will in fact provide better light ing and illuminate streets more effectively.
He said: “The LED lights bring a whole host of benefits. They are much more energy efficient, so they will reduce our carbon emissions, and they have a longer lifespan, so they will reduce maintenance costs.”