ESSEX County Council looked into installing low energy street lights instead of plunging Essex into darkness, the Gazette can reveal.

County Hall highways chief Rodney Bass has for the first time revealed before taking the decision to switch off the majority of street lights in the county, low energy LED lighting was discussed.

But the eco-friendly idea was dismissed because it would cost more than £31million to install.

Mr Bass has been criticised by opponents of the part-night lights scheme, who said alternative options had not been considered.

Attacks were launched after it was revealed county hall spent £6million on installing remotes on lampposts to be able to switch lights off.

Mr Bass said: “We have looked into the possibility of using LED lighting

“However this would not be economically viable for a county of our size at present.

“It would cost over £31million to purchase new LED lights across the council’s lighting stock, which far outweighs the cost of introducing our own central management system, and we would also incur considerable extra costs in fitting new lights and disposing of the old ones.”

He also said although some councils have installed the system, they have been funded through private finance initiatives, which, under new Government rules is no longer permitted.

He added: “LED lighting is a new technology and the long-term performance is not yet known in practice.

“The light emissions from LEDs will reduce over time which may mean that we need to replace the LED much more quickly than anticipated.”

Essex County Council has also reached agreement with Essex Police, which means if the scheme leads to an increase in crime in specific areas, full night lighting will be restored. No requests have been received yet.

The proposals, which will save the county council £1million a year, follow a pilot in Maldon and Uttlesford, which ran from 2007.

During the trial, both Essex Police and County Hall said recorded crime levels did not increase.
Under the scheme, street lights in town centres, at busy road junctions and in areas of high crime, will not be turned off.