RESIDENTIAL areas in Kidderminster will be among the first in Worcestershire to have their street lights switched off, as part of a cost-cutting council scheme.

Worcestershire County Council's cabinet, during a meeting on Thursday last week, agreed to switch off two out of three street lights in residential areas across the county by replacing bulbs with special timed dimmers which go out from midnight to 6am.

No exact dates have yet been decided but lights in Kidderminster and Droitwich are set to be switched off in June or July this year, during the first phase of the 18 to 24 month operation which will see about 1,000 lights a month blacked out.

The council operates 52,000 lights but wants to save £500,000 a year by cutting increasing energy costs and bringing down its carbon emissions.

During the meeting county Liberal Democrat councillors argued more lights should be switched off than is planned but the scheme also sparked concerns about increasing crime rates and traffic collisions.

Council leaders said the scheme would be reviewed on a regular basis with West Mercia Police and lights on all main roads, bends and junctions to housing estates will be kept on as well as areas with higher crime rates.

During a six month trial in Droitwich in 2012, the authority said, there was "no discernible change in crime or to road safety" and "following an initial period of public concern during the early stage, little complaint subsequently occurred".

Conservative councillor John Smith, cabinet member for highways, said: "Like residents and businesses, the council's energy bills have increased over the last few years and it's right we look at reducing the spend on street lighting, while at the same time cutting our carbon emissions.

"This is something that has been considered and discussed for some time. We understand this issue is important which is why, following the Droitwich trial period, we're looking to move things forward in a flexible way. Working to a one-size-fits-all approach simply wouldn't work.

"It's very important people are not confused and it's understood this will be a part-night switch off of two out of three lights, in residential areas, from midnight until 6am."

Stourport and Bewdley are set to follow within the next two years.