Time to switch

NEW plans have been devised to save energy on street lights after a trial switch-off at night failed to win support.

People living on the Foxfield Way estate in Oakham and the Wenton Close area of Cottesmore had their lights switched off between midnight and 5.30am in a pilot scheme from May, 2010 to March, 2011.

But some residents raised concerns about safety and security and the timer switches on the lights were thought to be unreliable.

Now Rutland County Council wants parishes to take charge of their own street lights and could offer them loans to install low-energy equipment.

Council leader Roger Begy (Con), who is responsible for highways, said: “We tried a number of experiments. Turning off the street lighting appeared to work in some places and not in others.

“We are now looking at other ways we can conserve energy and save money.”

Parish and town councils are usually responsible for street lighting but in Rutland they pay the county council to provide and run the lights.

A charge of £1 per council tax payer was agreed when the county council was reinstated in 1997 and this amount has not been raised since.

The parishes currently pay £13,000 of the £38,000 street lighting

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bill - leaving the county council to foot the bill for the extra £25,000.

Coun Begy said: “One of the things we are looking at is giving the control of street lighting over to the town or parish councils.

“That way they can decide what is right for their area. They are elected locally and in line with the Government’s Localism Bill should have more say over what happens in their own town or village.”

Market Overton Parish Council has already taken control of its lighting and installed energy-saving light bulbs throughout the village. It also switches off street lights in some areas late at night.

The scheme is funded by a grant from the Rural Community Council.

The ideas to save energy and money will be discussed at a meeting of the county council’s places scrutiny panel on Thursday next week.

Coun Begy said: “We have already done a lot at the council to conserve energy and tackle climate change and this is another way that we can do it.

“We are in the process of working on the budget for 2012/2013 at the moment and there will be some money put aside for street lighting this year.”

A report to the meeting recommends money should be set aside for low-energy street lamps and says parishes should be asked to pay the actual cost for lighting and offered loans to fund improvements. It suggests the county council should keep control of lighting in areas where there is no parish council.

The scrutiny panel will make recommendations to cabinet.