Essex County Council must be guided by local opinion when it comes to street lighting. So says Basildon Council leader Gavin Callaghan responding to an email ‘advising’ of the intention of Essex Highways to ‘de-illuminate’ areas of Basildon by switching off 235 street lights.
In the email, Deputy Leader of Essex County Council Cllr Kevin Bentley confirms the intention “to switch off a number of street lights… where they perform no useful function and waste energy,” and says the county council has “used mapping and lighting design tools initially to identify potential duplicate and so wasteful lighting.”
In response, Cllr Callaghan said: “Mapping and lighting tools don’t walk the streets of Basildon, our residents do and they know which street lights perform a useful function and which don’t.
“I have absolutely no problem with switching off old lighting columns where they have been replaced with new ones nearby or where there are more lighting columns than needed in any one area – of course that is sensible.
“But we must be clear that this cannot be used as a cover for county to switch off lights they think are wasteful, but our residents get comfort from and we know have a real impact on their feeling of safety.
“The people of Basildon are rightly nervous when remote county councillors make decisions about what happens on Basildon’s pavements. Decisions should be taken at the most local level by people who know the area and understand the impact. It’s why I believe Basildon Council should be a unitary authority.
“We must be reassured that these lights won’t be switched off until we have had proper chance to check that valued lights are not on the list. You can appreciate this is difficult to do at this time.
“We cannot be given just two weeks to respond at a time when our efforts and resources are focused on saving lives in the midst of this public health emergency.”