MP Eric Pickles has controversially defended Essex County Council’s “immensely brave ” decision to switch streetlights off at night saying “We can’t have lights burning on the off chance someone wants to do aerobics at 3am!”

The Brentwood and Ongar MP fully backs the part-night lighting scheme, which launched in his constituency in March, and has been introduced in other parts of the county.

Under the project, lights are switched off between midnight and 5pm everyday in a bid to save money on energy bills.

Mr Pickles said: “Essex County Council has been immensely brave because the easy thing would be to keep the lights on.

“In a time when we are on the cusp with regards of our electricity supply, we can’t have lights burning all night on the off chance someone wants to get out and do aerobics at 3am.

“I love it because I am economy-minded, it’s saving a phenomenal amount of money, it’s decreased crime because burglars love ambient lighting, it’s nice to see the night sky and as someone who lives in a main street who has had its lights cut off I can get a good night’s sleep.”

But critics of the switch-off in Brentwood have hit back at their MPs comments.

Dave Jones, 27, of Rollason Way, said: “I think brave is completely the wrong word to use.

“Stupid is more suitable in my opinion as the council have appeared not to take anyone’s concerns into real consideration and have just ploughed ahead with this idea.

“I just wish our views were listened to.”