HUNDREDS of people have signed a petition to try to get street lights switched back on in Castle Point.

Around 70 per cent of lights were switched off last month, plunging the borough into darkness, as Essex County Council’s scheme was brought into action.

The initiative, which aims to cut costs and carbon emissions by turning off the lights between midnight and 5am, has raised safety concerns from residents.

Almost 900 people have put their name to a campaign to get the lights switched back on after Benfleet resident Rick Llewellyn started the online petition.

Scores of people have flocked to the site to share their experiences since the switch-off.

Clare Curtis, from Canvey, wrote: “I have to leave for work at 3.30am and going out to my car at that time is scary enough with the lights on. Now they’re off, its even worse. I have to get a family member to watch me go to my car, as anyone could be lurking in the shadows.”

Key road junctions and areas where lighting is needed for safety reasons are not affected by the switch-off.

However, residents claim they do not feel safe walking around late a night.

Kay Fogg, from Benfleet, said: “My husband is a taxi driver and they are all having a nightmare when the lights go off.

“They can’t see turnings, can’t see house numbers, can’t see if a person gets safely to their door, or falls down drunk in the road. It’s the same for any of the emergency services too, doctors on call, paramedics, fire, ambulance, police.

“Why can’t they take a leaf out of Southend’s book and invest in low-energy bulbs? We all pay our council taxes and it should be our right to expect lit paths and roads in such a built-up area.

“There is no way on this earth I would be walking home from anywhere after midnight these days.”

A 4,000-strong petition was presented to County Hall objecting to the plans before the lights were turned off, but the switch-off went ahead on January 12.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “Essex County Council welcomes residents’ feedback on council issues and will consider any petition which is submitted on its own merits in line with the council’s petitions policy. An extensive consultation was carried out regarding part-night lighting in the Castle Point area previously and residents were given the opportunity to share their comments on the proposals via their local councillors, and local Council, during this time prior to the decision being taken to proceed with part-night lighting. However, if a petition is received, any new concerns will be taken on board and considered.”

The county council predicts the scheme, which is being rolled out across Essex, will save about £1million a year, including £64,000 in Castle Point alone.

To view the petition, visit essex-county-castle point-borough-council-turn-thestreet- lights-back-on-overnight