Engineers saved £5 million and helped to boost North Yorkshire's winter tourism as they replaced 50,400 street lights.

North Yorkshire County Council has completed its programme of installing energy-saving LED lamps on all its highway lights two years ahead of schedule and at a cost of £8 million instead of the estimated £13 million.

It hopes the programme will lead to reduced maintenance and repair costs, improved lighting, a cut in the council's carbon footprint and standardisation of the county's street lights.

Along the way it has helped the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks earn International Dark Sky Reserve status by using special LED bulbs in the two parks in fittings that stop light going upwards and lighting up the sky.

The county now hopes to attract astronomers and tourists to Dark Skies festivals during future winters.

Paul Gilmore, head of the council's street lighting team and a keen astronomer, said: “It was an easy thing for us to do and as there were no extra costs associated with the warmer tone lights we were happy to get on board and do our bit to help the national parks.”

County Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for access, said: “When the decision was taken to make a substantial investment in converting all the county council’s street lights from incandescent to LED, we were confident of getting a 100 per cent return within ten years.

"However, our street lighting team and our highway maintenance contractor, Ringway, made such rapid progress that we are realising the benefits of this project much sooner as we delivered the programme early and under budget.”

The council estimates the savings will repay for the programme in under eight years.

It is now working with district and parish councils to convert their street lights and is planning that areas currently without lighting will stay that way to benefit wildlife and reduce light pollution.