Page last updated at 10:28 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 11:28 UK

Lamp switch-off risks 'blackout'

Street light (library picture)
More than 9,000 lights will be switched off

Thousands of street lamps being switched off in Powys to save a council money risks plunging the county into 18th Century blackness, claims an MP.

Powys council is turning off more than 9,000 lights in a bid to save 225,000, largely due to rocketing energy prices.

Montgomeryshire MP Lembit Opik fears turning off two in every three lights is a step too far.

The council rejected his criticism and said the scheme targeted areas that had been agreed following consultation.

Mr Opik, whose constituency covers north Powys, claimed council chiefs should take a more enlightened approach and ask residents directly what they wanted.

Meanwhile, his Liberal Democrat colleague, Brecon and Radnorshire AM Kirsty Williams, said only where lighting was unnecessary should lamps be removed.

The county will look like it has gone back to the 18th Century
Lembit Opik MP

Mr Opik said: "What I am worried about is that if this goes too far you'll end up with a star-lit bible black county where elderly people are forced to shuffle around with an oil-lamp.

"The county will look like it has gone back to the 18th Century."

He added: "There is a larger fear that there will be more accidents where people will get run over along unlit sections of street.

"I know the council has the best of intentions and I support what it is trying to do, but I think it should ask the people directly. Local people always know best."

The council said it had to live within its budget.

A spokesman added: "The only alternative would be to pass on the rise to council tax payers."

'Truly unnecessary'

"When a huge increase in our energy bill of 175,000 came through we had to act. What we have at the moment is a phased introduction of the scheme.

"We are shutting off two out of three street lights in non-sensitive areas but each decision can be revised."

AM Ms Williams said while she welcomed the council's action to reduce its carbon footprint and reduce costs, safety was important.

"Issues of public safety are paramount and any decision must consider people's safety first and foremost," she said.

"Only in areas where lighting is truly unnecessary and no damage can result can they be removed."


SEE ALSO
County considers lights turn-off
12 Sep 08 |  South West Wales
Big street lamp switch-off starts
10 Sep 08 |  Mid Wales
Street lamps to be switched off
16 Jul 08 |  Mid Wales
Powys lights switch-off deferred
22 Apr 08 |  Mid Wales
County planning lights switch off
18 Apr 08 |  Mid Wales

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