DEBATE is under way in Alton over whether the dimming of the town’s street lights – to save energy and money – is “a step too far.”

Last year Hampshire County Council (HCC) introduced a policy of switching off street lights between 1am and 4am in residential areas of Hampshire to reduce carbon emmissions and funding pressures.

But according to the council’s executive member for environment, Cllr Rob Humby, “there has been no change to street lighting in the evenings”, and lights are “dimmed from 11.30pm-5.30am”.

Some would beg to differ, arguing that street lighting as a whole has been considerably reduced, leaving some areas in almost total darkness.

Town centre resident, Peter Desmond-Thomas, flagged up his concern after experiences of losing his footing in the dark: “The street lighting is now so dim that it is impossible to discern uneven paving or wet and slippery surfaces.”

He also points out “how very dreary street lighting in the town centre is here in Alton compared to city centres,” and suggests that if the government is to address the descent of town centres, the first consideration is that they should be bright and inviting to attract footfall.

Having had similar experiences on poorly lit pavements, county councillor Andrew Joy has similar concerns over safety and social psychology, and is pressing HCC for investment in more LED lighting to address the issue. While understanding the need to address climate change issues, district councillor Paula Langley wants to see a change of emphasis from cutting costs to the needs of people.

Alton Town Council leader, Cllr Pam Jones, asked if the county council had “gone too far” in its bid to cut energy and costs.

For those concerned about the reduced level of lighting, Cllr Humby said: “I would like to reassure residents that we work closely with the police and actively review any arrangements in areas where they express concern.”