FUTURE housing developments could be plunged into darkness in a bid to save money.
Calls are being made for new estates to either have no street lights at all or rely on ‘intelligent’ bulbs that automatically switch off when nobody is around.
Council chiefs say neighbourhoods in many rural parishes in the county have no street lights and would find it “an alien concept” for the skies to be “lit up at night” like urban areas.
Cash-strapped Worcestershire County Council spends £2 million a year on energy costs for 52,000 lights, and is concerned prices will rise above inflation again this year.
Now bosses are floating an idea to review the way it installs lighting on all new housing developments to avoid a funding crisis.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader and cabinet member for the economy, said: “There are large numbers of new developments and we will have to think very carefully about where we put lights. It’s terribly difficult for us to remove lights once they have been put up.
“In some parishes and villages people think of it as this alien concept and lighting is a rising cost for this council, so let’s think very carefully about where they go in the future.”
Bosses are hoping the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP), a housing document which earmarks land for new homes up to 2030, is an ideal chance to change lighting policies.
The costs of street lamps and road signs is 45 per cent of County Hall’s yearly electricity bill and 21 of the authority’s current Co2 emissions.
Coun Geraghty’s comments, made during a cabinet meeting, were welcomed by Coun Tony Miller, who said: “Intelligent lighting is available, and it’s ready for use so let’s explore this option.
“In many new developments which have been built recently you hear people saying they don’t want the sky illuminated at night – I say let’s listen to those views.”
As your Worcester News first revealed last August, the council has been considering dimming some lights at night but shelved the plans last year after finding out it would need to invest about £3.4 million to save £600,000 a year.
Bosses have not ruled out the possibility of launching it later this year, but only if it leads to quicker savings.
Councillor Ken Pollock said: “There is this perception that lights help reduce crime, but the police evidence contradicts that – they say criminals are opportunistic and are often put off dark areas because they’d need a torch.”