Market traders struggled to set-up stalls in darkness after street lights were switched off overnight for the first time.

The controversial scheme saw residential streets across Epping Forest plunged into darkness at midnight on Monday to save money.

But traders preparing for market day in High Street, Epping, said there was not enough light to work in when they arrived early this morning.

Dave Sehmbi, 67, of Hornchurch who owns a luggage and handbags stall, has had his market pitch in Epping High Street for 32 years was among those affected.

He said: “I need the light badly. It is dark and it is crucial that I set up early.

"Also the vans are parked on the roadside and with the traffic this is dangerous because it is pitch dark.”

Mr Sehmbi was not alone in voicing his concerns.

Kevin Brooks, 51 of Brentwood, who works on a fruit and veg stall, also spoke of the inconvenience it caused him when setting up.

He said: “It’s ridiculous, you can’t see anything – it is pitch dark.

“We start setting up at 4:00am. You can’t see what you’re putting up.

“Even if they just have the lights on market day, that would make sense.

“They should be on until about 7:00am because it’s still dark.”

Alison Wagstaffe, 34 of Buckhurst Hill has begun a petition calling for street lights to be left on until after the last train and tube services.

Essex County Council has agreed to leave the lights on along major bus routes until 1am.