PLANS to switch off street lights and plunge Castle Point into darkness have been postponed – in time for a new year blackout.

About 70 per cent of the borough’s street lights were due to be turned off between midnight and 5am yesterday as part of Essex County Council’s part night lighting scheme.

The decision was postponed after county councillor Chris Pond “called-in” the plans for review on behalf of county councillor Dave Blackwell following claims it will lead to an increase in crime.

Now, county councillor Rodney Bass, cabinet member for highways and transportation, has agreed to delay the switch-off until January 2 pending further evidence to prove why it should not go ahead.

Mr Blackwell, who met with Mr Bass yesterday, said: “I have been getting a lot of representations from residents and from paramedics who say if they get called out at 3am to an incident they will struggle to see which house they have to go to in the dark and often time is of the essence.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect the meeting to go so well. I went in thinking I would get my ears chewed off because I wanted a full review done of all the roads and pavements to see if it is safe to turn out the lights, but I came out and thought blimey, I managed to get something out of this.

“Mr Bass has agreed to stay the execution until the holiday period is over because I said lots of people will be out late at night. He said bring me the evidence and I will take a serious look at it. So nowwe’ve got to get as much proof as we can and speak to all the emergency services and paramedics to try to change his mind.”

This comes after plans to switch off street lights in Basildon were also postponed pending further negotiations between senior Basildon Council officials and Mr Bass.

Maps detailing the true scale of the switch-off in Castle Point were released last month, with only key junctions and town centres being exempt from the proposals.

Street lights are being switched off across Essex as part of a county-wide scheme to cut costs and carbon emissions – with the county council set to save £64,000 from the Castle Point switch-off alone.

Streetlights have already been switched off in other areas, including Maldon, Uttlesford, Chelmsford, Braintree and Colchester, with Rochford set to follow suit on January 6.