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Norwich street lights switch-off anger

PUBLISHED: 06:10 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:43 02 July 2010

Street lights in Norwich. More than 7,800 look set to be turned off between midnight and 5am.

Street lights in Norwich. More than 7,800 look set to be turned off between midnight and 5am.

Sarah Hall

More than 7,800 Norwich street lights are set to be switched off between midnight and 5am, after controversial plans were agreed despite claims it will see an increase in crime.

More than 7,800 Norwich street lights are set to be switched off between midnight and 5am, after controversial plans were agreed despite claims it will see an increase in crime.

County council bosses say the move, over the next three years, will save £167,000 each year, while cutting the council's annual carbon emissions by about 1,000 tonnes, but critics argue crime will increase and better alternatives to the part switch off could have been found.

The switch-off of up to 27,000 lights across Norfolk was agreed at a stormy meeting of the county council's cabinet yesterday where tension between councillors representing rural Norfolk and urban Norwich ran high.

A fortnight ago the Norwich area committee, which is made up of county councillors who represent divisions in the city, called for the decision to be delayed and for a pilot scheme to be tested.

But cabinet members agreed to push ahead with the plans, insisting lights will not be switched off in city centres, on major roads or in high crime areas, with a string of possible exemptions identified where lights will not be switched off.

Those exemptions include in streets with CCTV cameras, where lights have been installed to prevent accidents and places where police can demonstrate there will be an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour if the streets were blacked out.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “Lights will not be switched off on busy roads, in the city centre or in high crime areas.

“On the implication that crime will rise if the lights are switched off between midnight and 5am, then why is it that many villages around Norfolk with no lighting do not have crime waves? There is no evidence that darkness creates crime.”

Police last week said they did not object to the plan in principle, but would not want lights turned off in crime and anti-social behaviour hot spots.

The roll-out will take place over the next three years, when the current lights will be replaced with new models fitted with cells which switch off after midnight.

Letters will be sent to people in streets ahead of the switch off and Mike Jackson, director of planning and transportation will use the responses to decide on exemptions, in consultation the cabinet member for planning and transportation.

But Bert Bremner, who represents Norwich's University ward on the county and district council, described the plans as “the Big Tory Black-Out' and said the concerns of district and parish councils were being ignored.

George Nobbs, leader of the Labour group and county councillor for Norwich's Crome division, stormed out of the meeting, saying it was a “waste of time” as “the decision was already made.”

Afterwards he said: “I think they were contemptuous towards us. Not one of the cabinet members represents Norwich or Great Yarmouth and if anyone wanted a reason to oppose a unitary Norfolk this was it.”

Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Norwich South, accused the council of rushing through the proposals.

He said: “The discussions in the meeting barely constituted a debate. In little more than fifteen minutes, councillors brushed aside the huge range of concerns and agreed to go ahead without a trial and without proper consultation.”

To see a list of the streets currently earmarked to have lights switched off visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk

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