THE controversial big street light switch off was delayed at the 11th hour.

Essex County Council’s decision to plunge most of Basildon into darkness between midnight and 5am was halted just hours before it was due to kick in on Saturday.

The switch-off was pushed back until further notice after Labour county councillor Ivan Henderson, who represents Harwich, in north Essex, called in the decision.

This means a council committee will have to reconsider the decision.

While it is likely the decision will be approved, changes could be made.

Mr Henderson said it was because the consultation process had been a “farce”.

John Dornan, Basildon councillor responsible for environment, said: “I welcome this call-in and will be looking closely at the outcome.

“People power is forcing County Hall to recognise that, to date, nothing has proven those lights should be turned off.

“I honestly believe Basildon is unique. We have non-traditional inward-facing housing. And we are trying to promote business. If we want to encourage growth in the area we have to keep the lights on and this is a backwards step.”

Street lights were originally set to go out on November 1, but County Hall postponed this as maps detailing which areas would be affected were not due out until the same day. The date was put back to November 18 and then again to November 25 while “further discussions” took place.

The decision was then put back indefinitely for more talks.

On January 20, it was announced council estates in Five Links, Felmores, Langdon Hills, Chalvedon, Pitsea 1/2/3 and Craylands would be temporarily spared from the switch-off.

This was so Basildon Council could prepare evidence saying why they should be considered an exception.

A two-year trial scheme on the A127, between the M25 and Southend, and part of the A13 – between Sadlers Farm and Five Bells, began on December 9 and will continue.

Rodney Bass, Essex highways boss, said: “We are giving due consideration to the consultation responses received from local residents and councillors, in addition to the emergency services, regarding the areas which they believe meet the exemption criteria.

“I appreciate their time and response with this.

“I am working with fellow councillors throughout the call-in process for the areas affected and I will listen carefully to their views prior to making a decision regarding the roll-out.

“Revised dates for areas that are affected by the call-in process will be published online when agreed.