TWO thirds of street lights in Shropshire will be switched off in the middle of the night from next year.

Councillors at a Shropshire Council cabinet meeting approved plans to turn off 70 per cent of Shropshire’s street lights in the early hours of the morning over the next four years, starting in April 2012.

The plans are to switch off about 12,500 of the authority’s 18,500 lights between midnight and 5.30am across Shrewsbury and the rest of the county in a bid to save £162,500 a year.

A pilot scheme will start in Church Stretton on October 1.

A trial run will also take place in Ellesmere and Cleobury Mortimer, and if successful will be rolled out across all of Shropshire.

Cllr Simon Jones, cabinet member for transport at Shropshire Council, said: “This is a great opportunity for us all to do our bit for the environment, and help the council save money at the same time.

“Why do we need to spend money lighting up hundreds of miles of empty roads in the middle of the night which could be better spent providing essential services for people?

“Lots of other areas are already doing this, such as Devon, Powys and Leicestershire, and we have been talking to them in great detail about their experiences to make sure we get it right in Shropshire.”

Council bosses said risk assessments would be carried out to ensure roundabouts, T-junctions, areas covered by CCTV and town centres would not be plunged into darkness unnecessarily.

Some areas of the country including Telford and Wrekin already switch streetlights off in the early hours of the morning.

The campaign is in partnership with West Mercia Police, and any areas which are a crime concern or need lights for road safety reasons will not have their lights switched off.

Superintendent Pete Lightwood said: “Crime and disorder statistics will be carefully monitored throughout the pilot projects.

“However, in other parts of the country where similar schemes are already running, there is no evidence crime has risen as a result.

“In fact, crime has actually fallen in some areas where lights are switched off at night.

“Where there is a proven need, lights can be retained at night and people can be assured the police will be keeping a close watch on the all-round effects of the pilot schemes to assess their impact.”