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Lights will go out across Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 06:30 16 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:09 02 July 2010

The street lights in Avenue Road, Norwich.

The street lights in Avenue Road, Norwich.

Kim Briscoe

A straw poll of public opinion has revealed overwhelming opposition to plans to turn off Norwich's street lights - as a last minute bid to overturn the decision failed.

A straw poll of public opinion has revealed overwhelming opposition to plans to turn off Norwich's street lights - as a last minute bid to overturn the decision failed.

Elected representatives in the west of the city conducted a survey on the proposals to switch off 7,800 lights in Norwich.

Nearly 200 people living in the University ward responded, and 95pc were opposed to the street lights being switched off between midnight and 5am.

Many were concerned at the cost to the community in bigger insurance bills, increased crime, and increased fear of crime. It was felt that many people were out at these times, either through work or pleasures, and young people in particular could be put at risk.

Bert Bremner, one of the Labour city and county councillors who put together the survey, said they were always keen to gauge public opinion on major issues affecting the city.

He said: “We were stunned to get such a huge percentage totally against the lights being switched off.

“From speaking to people we knew it would be high but 95pc is amazing.”

The survey also highlighted that people felt the savings in carbon and money were very small - a 10pc saving - considering that half of the lights in the county would be blacked out.

Norfolk County Council agreed last month to press ahead with a plan to replace 27,000 streetlights in Norfolk, including 7,800 in Norwich, over the next three years, fitting cells which will switch them off between midnight and 5am.

The council says that will save £167,000 a year and cut the council's carbon footprint.

A last ditch campaign failed yesterday as opposition Green county councillors called for the plans to be put on hold while trials were carried out to gauge its effects, while Labour councillors called for the measure to be scrapped altogether.

But both calls fell on deaf ears after the ruling Conservative administration agreed to press ahead with the changes during yesterday's budget debate.

Jennifer Toms, Green county councillor for Sewell, said: "Although we support the principle, we feel it has been hastily conceived and is being rushed through. There has not been adequate consultation, and there has been no trial to assess the impact in urban areas."

A spokesman for the county council said there was no evidence to suggest switching off lights would increase crime, but acknowledged it was important to also take into account the fear of crime.

They said many lights would still be kept on in main roads and in high crime areas, while exemptions will be applied to keep lights on in areas with CCTV.

The spokesman added: “There will be opportunities for people to have their say as proposals to change a particular street or area are brought forward.”

Do you have a story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk.

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