RURAL campaigners have backed a council decision to switch off street lights to save money - as Buckinghamshire is revealed as one of the worst areas for light pollution.

About 300 lights are set to be turned off in a trial scheme across the region from April, which could save the council £15,000 a year in energy costs.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England claims street lighting has caused light pollution - and adds a major problem is lights facing upwards which distort the visibility of the sky.

The county came fourth in the worst areas for light pollution in a CPRE study of ten areas across the South East.

The review was measured on how much light shined upwards compared to facing the ground.

Peter Cleasby, 57, chairman of CPRE, said: "We would be in favour of getting rid of unnecessary lighting which prevents people from seeing the sky clearly.

"This sounds well worth doing but it is only part of the problem.

"It is a good start.

"There is no evidence that excessive lighting reduces crime."

The trial will target areas including the A4128 from the Wycombe town boundary up to the Cryers Hill Road roundabout and the A413 Aylesbury Road/Mobwell junction in Great Missenden. It will also affect the A40 - 250 metres west of Gerrards Cross, the A412 Denham Road, the Nashlee roundabout and A421 Radclive roundabout, both in Aylesbury.

Ian McGowan, a member of Buckinghamshire County Council's casualty reduction group, said measures such as intelligent road studs, were introduced in June 2006 to make the A4128 Hughenden Road safer.

Before then the road was averaging six crashes a year. In the last eight months there have been two.

He said: "In terms of the effectiveness of the lighting, particularly with the trees there, the lighting is hampered by the trees and we feel that the use of intelligent road studs will delineate the carriageway to drivers far better.

"Even by turning the lights out people will be able to see the road very well and drive safer, as long as everything else they're doing is correct."

Mr McGowan added 96 per cent of all crashes involved human error and 77 per cent were solely due to this.

Between January 2001 and December 31, 2004 there have been two fatal, six serious and 32 slight collisions on the Hughenden Road.

Paul Millington, chairman of Wycombe Astronomical Society, said: "Obviously darker skies would be better but you have got to consider safety.

"From an astronomical point of view, brilliant, but on the other hand you have got to look at it safety wise.

"In some areas you can look up and see the Milky Way. In Wycombe you would never see that because of the light pollution, and basically that is caused because a lot of the light goes up instead of down."

In the Penn area some of the streets do not have lighting.

Tony Anderson, 60, of Hillcroft Road, said: "I've lived here for 30 years and have just got used to not having street lighting.

"I do not think lighting makes any difference to crime or accidents.

"I am happy with it and do not think it's an issue."

But Jean Smith, 60, of The Greenway, said: "The pavements are uneven and it is very dangerous. I push my grandson Harvey in a pram and it is hard to see the curb in the dark.

"Pedestrians have a problem with the darkness unlike drivers."