MORE than 17,000 street lights in Worcestershire are going to be switched off - plunging parts of the county into darkness.

Your Worcester News can reveal how a plan to turn off lights across the county is on the verge of being finalised in a bid to save taxpayers £500,000 a year.

From April workers will start taking out 1,000 lights a month and replace them with special 'timed' dimmers that go out from midnight to 6am.

Worcestershire County Council operates 52,000 lights, but says it wants to switch off two out of every three during those times to save money and help the environment.

The project, which has been two years in the making, would see lights on all main roads, bends and junctions to housing estates kept on.

Some critics have already labelled it "bonkers" but supporters of it say it will save money.

The move, which is expected to be voted through by the Conservative cabinet on Thursday, follows a trial in Droitwich.

Between November 2012 and last May, 72 lights were switched off in the spa town, two out of three, from midnight to 6am.

The county council said it had no complaints or feedback that it led to increased crime or traffic incidents.

Councillor John Smith, cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: "The feedback in Droitwich was very positive and not only will this save money, it will be better for the environment.

"We've had discussions with the police and we won't be turning them off in any crime hotspots or on junctions leading to estates, or main routes like London Road (in Worcester).

"We think it will be a good scheme."

The cost of installing the dimmers will be £270,000, but the council say it will then save £500,000 yearly.

It is expected to take around 18 months to two years to fully finish, with workers set a target of replacing 1,000 lights a month.

Councillor Peter McDonald, from the opposition Labour group, said: "They're bonkers - without street lighting, especially at that time of night when it is most needed, people will not feel safe.

"These stupid, unsafe proposals could well make our streets unsafe after midnight.

"Nobody in their right mind is going to relish the thought of walking alone along blacked out streets."

But Paul Branston, 61, from Corbett Avenue, Droitwich, said: "I don't think anyone battered an eyelid when they went off here.

"If the main road ones stay on I think I wouldn't be against it."

The council is planning to save £103 million by 2018 to cope with unprecedented cuts in Government funding and pressure on social services.