STREET lights across Wiltshire will be dimmed in the evenings as part of a £12m cost-saving scheme by Wiltshire Council.

The council agreed at an Environmental Select Committee meeting on Tuesday to begin replacing the almost 45,000 sodium street lights with efficient LED lights to keep its energy bills down.

The move would allow the council to remotely dim the LED lights, and plans to turn them down from 8pm in the evening until 6am, with further dimming from 11pm onwards.

Chris Hurst, Wiltshire Councillor for Royal Wootton Bassett South, welcomed the move, saying: “I believe this is an important cost saving and environmental measure.

"The Liberal Democrat group proposed this change early in the year but it was rejected by the Conservatives. Finally they have seen the light.”

The meeting this week heard that lighting the county’s towns and villages costs the council £1.9m annually and the new LED lights are expected to offer savings of £1.3m every year.

But the new lights will cost £12.2m to install and take two years to complete, but it will be 12 years before any actual savings make a return on the investment.

The council estimates it would save more than £1m in energy costs and £250,000 in street light maintenance to taxpayers.

LED lights last between 20 and 25 years before breaking, whereas the current sodium lights need to be replaced every three years and use around 69 per cent more energy.

There may also be additional benefits from the lights being dimmed, such as inhibiting anti-social behaviour.

Jacqui Lay, Wiltshire Councillor for Purton, who was at the meeting, told the Advertiser: “Quite often what happens is that in town centres where youths perhaps congregate, the police actually request the lights to be turned off.

“They won’t gather if the lights aren’t on.

“If it’s dark, I don’t think people will be hanging around on the off-chance someone will turn up for them to acost," added the councillor.

Possible concerns about lower levels of lighting on country roads during the evenings also outweighed the potential savings to taxpayers.

"On country roads we don’t really have lights, they’re on the main road and housing estates," added the Purton councillor.

“They could potentially be dimmer in the hours of the day when you don’t really need the lights on, like in the really early hours of the morning.

“One of the things I raised in the meeting is the cutting back of trees.

"If you walk down Purton High Street its not very bright because an awful lot of trees hanging over the lights anyway, So if people don’t cut their try we’re paying for the cost of lighting up the branches.”

The street lights will also help the council meet its own carbon emission targets to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2020.