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Light switch-off plan criticised

PUBLISHED: 13:00 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:25 02 July 2010

Sarah Hall

County councillors who represent Norwich have called on their cabinet colleagues to postpone proposals to switch off thousands of street lights - arguing a lack of information means they would be taking a "leap into the dark" if they push ahead with it.

County councillors who represent Norwich have called on their cabinet colleagues to postpone proposals to switch off thousands of street lights - arguing a lack of information means they would be taking a “leap into the dark” if they push ahead with it.

Norfolk County Council wants to switch off around 27,000 street lights across Norfolk, including 7,800 in Norwich, between midnight and 5am to save cash and reduce County Hall's carbon footprint.

The proposal, which has sparked anger in Norwich because people are worried it could increase crime, or at least people's fear of crime, was discussed last night at a meeting of the county council's Norwich Area Committee, made up of the county councillors who represent the city.

A motion, put forward by Andrew Boswell, Green group leader and county councillor for Nelson division, called for the decision, due to be made at cabinet on January 25, to be postponed, so officers can look at other solutions.

Those other solutions could include dimming the lights, exploring whether renewable energy could be used to power lights and generate money for the council or testing the water with a pilot scheme in the city.

The motion, which all councillors agreed except for Bowthorpe Conservative councillor Paul Wells, who abstained, was agreed.

It will also see the committee chairman Richard Bearman write to the council leader and the cabinet to detail the views presented in the discussion.

Mike Jackson, Norfolk County Council's director of planning and transportation said the cabinet was being asked to agree in principle to the part switch off which would only be in low crime, low traffic routes and even then exemptions could be agreed.

A number of members expressed concern that the police's views on the proposals had not been forthcoming and Mr Jackson said the reason was that they were doing further work on the anti-social behaviour issues connected to the proposals and said he hoped that information would be ready in time for the cabinet decision.

But that prompted councillors to ask why a list of lights facing switch off had been circulated without first applying the exemptions and getting proper police input.

George Nobbs, leader of the Labour group and Crome ward county councillor, said: “We are asking cabinet to take a leap into the dark. Why didn't you publish the exemptions at the time the list was circulated or not publish a list at all?”

Other councillors said the number of pedestrians using streets needed to be taken into account as well as traffic and raised concerns about the safety of night shift workers.

Tom Sutton, welfare officer from the University of East Anglia Students' Union, said many of the streets earmarked for switch off were in areas where students lived - which would make them fearful walking home and could attract burglars aware student homes could have a number of laptops and televisions in.

Council leader Daniel Cox was present at the start of the meeting but when he went to leave members called him back to ask if he and fellow cabinet members would listen to their views.

He said he had another meeting to attend in his parish but said whatever was agreed at the area meeting would be taken on board.

What do you think of the plans? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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