COLCHESTER is set to be plunged into darkness.

Money-saving plans by Essex County Council reveal, between midnight and 5am, the vast majority of street lights in the town will be switched off.

County Hall wants to save £132,000 a year through the Colchester plans, while, across Essex, bosses hope to save £1million a year.

Tim Young, Colchester borough councillor responsible for community safety, accused the county council of not listening to residents.

He said: “It’s a sham consultation.

“I think, given the amount of lights being turned off, my fears over the scheme have increased 100 fold.

“The only people who will be pleased with this are taxi drivers, because business will increase.

“If people are walking home, and they don’t have enough money for the taxi, God knows what will happen.

“People have said I’m scaremongering, but I would rather be a scaremonger than have to comment in a few weeks’ time on crimes that may have happened.

“What’s the point in having a consultation, if you’re going to ignore everything being suggested?”

Mr Young also said he feared Colchester’s night-time economy, and its Purple Flag status, could be harmed.

The county council has been carrying out a pilot of the scheme in Maldon and Uttlesford since 2007.

It says there has been no increase in recorded crime, or in accidents.

But Mr Young said: “I know they have trialled this in Uttlesford and Maldon, but, with all due respect, they do not have the same night-time we do.

“They don’t have a university or a garrison. They’re totally different areas.

“I just think this is a recipe for disaster.”

The scheme was initially meant to start in Colchester last Friday, but it has been delayed until Monday, November 18.

Streetlights in town centres, at busy road junctions and in areas of high crime are all exempt from the plans.

The scheme will be introduced in Tendring from January 6 next year and plans for that scheme will be published on December 20.

'Give scheme a chance'

Gazette: Councillor Kevin Bentley, deputy leader of Essex County Council, said the funding already brought into the county was fantastic, especially in the tough economic climate.

KEVIN Bentley, deputy leader of Essex County Council, has urged residents to give the
plans a chance.

He said he understood why people were opposing the partnight lighting plans, but added
research carried out in Maldon and Uttlesford showed no increase in crime.

Mr Bentley, Tory borough councillor for Birch and Winstree, and Stanway and Pyefleet county councillor, said: “People will worry, I understand that.

“But they have to ask: ‘How often am I out in the streets during these hours of the night?’

“Will it truly affect what I do day-to-day?

“I think if you look at experiences outside of Essex, where no one has an axe to grind, you will find quite positive experiences and I hope that will be the case for Colchester.”