Don't switch off Norwich street lights - call

Sarah HallCity councillors sent a strong message to their counterparts at Norfolk County Council last night - don't switch off street lights in Norwich without asking families first.Sarah Hall

City councillors sent a strong message to their counterparts at Norfolk County Council last night - don't switch off street lights in Norwich without asking families first.

The county council this week agreed to plans to switch off up to 27,000 lights across Norfolk, including 7,800 in Norwich, between midnight and 5am.

County Hall says that will save �167,000 a year and will reduce the council's carbon footprint by 1,000 tonnes a year.

They have stressed there are a number of exemptions which will stop lights from being switched out, such as in busy roads, in city centres and in crime and anti-social behaviour hotspots.

The county council has said letters will be sent to streets ahead of the switch off, which will happen over the next three years as lights are replaced with new models fitted with special cells.

County council bosses say people will be able to raise concerns then and Mike Jackson, County Hall's director of planning and transportation, in consultation with the cabinet member for planning and transportation, will decide whether exemptions apply.

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But, at last night's Norwich City Council meeting a motion was passed setting out City Hall's opposition to what Labour councillors dubbed 'The Big Tory switch off'.

The motion set out the city council's opposition to switch offs in areas with a history of anti-social behaviour and crime; where people in the street say they do not want the lights to be turned off; where there is existing issues with crime and disorder; and without and guarantee that it could be reversed if problems arose.

It also called for proper consultation, involving people living in the affected streets, along with Safer Neighbourhood Area Panels, Neighbourhood Watch and Business Watch groups and called for the county council to work more with the city council to find other ways to cut carbon emissions.

Steve Morphew, Labour leader, who proposed the motion, said: 'It's the fear of the dark which is the problem as much as anything - the fear of crime. There might not be anything lurking in the dark but people will be worried about walking out there in any case.

'What this motion doesn't ask to do is say we shouldn't turn them off in any circumstance, but it does say there needs to be a process which people can have confidence in. That means people will need to be talked to and listened to.'

Green councillor Stephen Little, who represents Town Close on both the city and county councils, said: 'The Tory administration at County Hall has displayed arrogance and ignorance in this and they do not understand the reality of city life.'

Conservative leader Antony Little, who represents Bowthorpe, said the idea had its merits, but criticised the way his counterparts at County Hall had dealt with it.

He said: 'It's a difficult one because on one hand I have someone in Bowthorpe sending me an extremely stroppy email saying they don't want the switch off and then I get someone else telling me they want the lights switched off to stop louts hanging around outside their house - and those people are neighbours!

'Our problem isn't with the plan, but the way it has been implemented. There's a lot which will be said about this and the county council needs to take it on board.'

The motion was agreed by all councillors except John Fisher, Conservative councillor for Catton Grove.

What do you think of the lights being switched off between midnight and 5am? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email