LARGE areas of Hambleton district could be plunged into darkness overnight as a local authority looks at switching off more than 4,000 lights to save money.

North Yorkshire County Council is already planning to turn off many of their lights at night across the district from next May and Hambleton District Council has been asked to consider switching off theirs from midnight to 5am, in a joint scheme.

Members of Hambleton District Council’s cabinet were told it would cost around £98,000 to install new sensors to turn off or dim the lights, saving around £24,500 a year.

The county council has around 60 per cent of the lights across Hambleton, and the district council the remaining 40 per cent, but councillors were told not all lights can be turned off.

Those in high risk accident areas, at roundabouts, major junctions, pedestrian crossings and with high traffic flows would not be included.

Main areas where lights could be turned off would be residential roads and streets, car parks, long stretches of by passes or roads where accident risk is minimal, industrial estates, footpaths and cycleways.

A consultation exercise would have to be carried out with the county council, North Yorkshire Police, parish and town councils and local residents, with risk assessments on local crime and night time accident records.

There are nearly 2,000 lights in Northallerton, 680 in Easingwold, 860 in Stokesley, 400 in Thirsk, 360 in Bedale and more than 600 in Great Ayton which would be looked at as part of a joint scheme, but the district council also controls many lights in smaller villages and rural areas.

Coun Caroline Patmore warned: "How are we going to square the fact that lighting was sold to parish councils as a detriment to crime now suddenly we are taking it out. The parish councils may say we feel safe with them. “

But Coun Nigel Knapton said if the parish councils wanted to keep the street lights they could adopt them.

“Some parish councils do own their own street lighting, maybe it is an opportunity to pass on some of our lighting to parish councils.”

Council leader Neville Huxtable said he would like to see the scheme examined by the scrutiny committee before the council commits to joining in with North Yorkshire.

Members agreed to ask the scrutiny committee to look at the plan.