COLCHESTER is to be included in a £1million project to install energy saving street lights.

The planned trial has raised hopes street lights might be turned back on throughout the night in the long term.

Essex County Council is to fit street lights across the town with the LED technology as part of a pilot scheme next summer.

It is one of six areas in the county which will see the lights installed in a bid to save money and reduce energy costs.

The county council has not ruled out expanding the £1million scheme across the county if the savings are big enough.

County highways boss Rodney Bass said: “Substantial increases in electricity prices continue to affect everyone, including local authorities.

“We are looking at ways to reduce energy and carbon consumption by various means to try and mitigate these increasing costs.”

It is understood the scheme will only be trialled in Colchester town centre lights, which are on all night.

About 70 per cent of street lights were turned off between midnight and 5am in the borough last year saving the county council £130,000 a year.

Before the lights were turned off, opponents had called on the authority to look at installing LED technology instead of turning them off.

But the idea was dismissed as being too expensive and up to £6million has been spent on a central management system to allow lights to be switched off remotely.

It would cost about £80million to fit each of the 127,000 street lights run by Essex County Council with LED technology.

Supporters say the lights can typically last for 25 years and save on-going maintenance costs.

Labour’s Tim Young, Colchester councillor responsible for community safety, was among those who called for LED lights.

He said: “If it leads one step closer to putting the lights back on, I think that would be great and I hope it does.

“We welcome it and I am sure it will prove what we have always said and already know – not only that these save money and energy, but having the lights on will reassure residents.”

During a consultation before Colchester was plunged into darkness last November, Mr Young raised concerns the decision would lead to an increase in crime.

Yesterday, he said: “I feared I was right and I wish I was not, but I was.”