County councillors have backed a scheme that could keep the lights on until 2am on some Hertfordshire streets.

Currently – under the county council’s ‘part-night lighting’ scheme – most street lights across Hertfordshire are turned off at 1am. And they are turned back on at 5am.

But on Wednesday (June 3) a meeting of the county council’s special cabinet panel agreed that lights could now stay on, on certain streets, until 2am where there is “local justification”.

That ‘local justification’ criteria – agreed by the meeting –  will only apply to certain routes that run to and from transport hubs, hospitals, significant businesses or entertainment venues that operate until 2am.

And any extension in the existing lighting hours on these roads will only be considered following a request from the local councillor.

The new scheme follows earlier calls from opposition councillors to keep street lights on for longer, at the request of a local councillor.

But at the meeting there were suggestions that the new criteria did not go far enough to meet local need.

Labour’s Cllr Asif Khan said the criteria to determine which streets would be eligible for extended lighting was too rigid.

He said that as a result there were roads that should benefit, that would not. And he questioned whether a uniform approach would be an alternative.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst pointed to people living in residential side streets in Watford who wanted lights to stay on until 2am.

And – while he agreed one size did not fit all – he said it should be left to local councillors to make the decision.

However executive member for highways and environment Phil Bibby said the “transparent, understandable and realistic” criteria would ensure the extended lighting was where it was really needed.

And he said: “We don’t think the public, as a rule, want us to turn lights on after one o’clock as a general strategy so therefore that is not what we are offering.”

The cost of extending the lighting hours in these instances would be met by dimming the same lights by 50 per cent between the hours of 5am and 6am.

But at the meeting Liberal Democrat councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst called for ALL street lights to be dimmed for that hour with immediate effect – to cut down carbon emissions and save costs.

And while the panel voted against the idea, it was agreed that officers would bring a report on the effect of dimming ALL street lights between 5am and 6am to a later meeting.

Cllr Giles-Medhurst told the meeting it was “ludicrous” that the lights were fully on between 5am and 6am – whereas lights after 10pm were already dimmed.

And he said that had the lights been dimmed between 5am and 6am since February 2018 – when it was suggested by the Liberal Democrats – CO2 emissions could have been cut by 436 tonnes and costs to the council cut by £100,000.

“Fundamentally if we are adhering to the green agenda and climate change agenda and we know we can do the dimming between 5and 6am we should be doing it,” he said.

“Irrespective of whatever other decision you make today we should be making that effort to reduce carbon emissions and making that saving – which is also a financial saving to the authority.”

During the debate Cllr Bibby said the dimming was a possibility that would be reviewed in the future. But he said it would not be appropriate to bring in ‘overnight’.

And executive member for resources and performance Cllr Ralph Sangster said it was important that council officers had the opportunity to asses the implications, before a decision was taken.

He said: “When you are trying to amend a paper like this that had had a lot of consideration and calculation into its proposals, to try and amend – without giving officers the chance to review the amendment and consider the implications of it – is making policy on the hoof.

“We need to give officers an opportunity to come back and give full implications of what it is we are proposing and any pluses and minuses and make a decision that’s appropriate at the time.”