A controversial scheme to switch off street lights in residential areas to save money was implemented for the first time last night.

And residents took to social media to criticise the move in Epping Forest, which is aimed at saving £1.5million a year across Essex.

Lisa Perschky, from Waltham Abbey, took to twitter to call the policy a “joke” and claim criminals will “take advantage”.

Allison Hudson, also from the town, branded the move “disgusting”, adding she now fears for the safety of her daughters travelling home at night.

Charlotte Harman, 20, from Loughton, said she and her friend nearly had an accident as they drove home.

She said: “We, two young girls, were driving home from our friends when we realised the lights were off.

“A little further down the road in Loughton Way I had to scream at my driver to stop. As per usual in Loughton, there was junk in the road but she had just mistaken this for a light piece of rubbish, no it was a concrete bollard.

"We were debating the best action to take as we know it’s not safe to get out your car in the middle of the night in low lit areas.”

Miss Harman said her friend later witnessed a taxi driver hit the bollard.

“If professional drivers are being disadvantaged by the council's idiotic move to remove all lights, what about the rest of us?” She added.

Alison Wagstaffe, of Buckhurst Hill recently began a petition calling for lights to be kept on until after the last tube and train services.

To view it, click here.