Street light switch off to start

The switch off of almost 27,000 street lights across Norfolk after midnight is edging nearer - with consultation having started with thousands of people over the controversial move.

The switch off of almost 27,000 street lights across Norfolk after midnight is edging nearer - with consultation having started with thousands of people over the controversial move.

Norfolk County Council agreed at the start of the year to turn out the majority of its street lights in residential streets after midnight to save money and reduce the council's carbon footprint.

Councillors said few people were on the streets at that time, so it made sense to switch them off in a staggered phase over the next three years, saving �167,000 a year and cutting County Hall's carbon footprint by 1,000 tonnes a year.

But the proposal sparked anger in Norwich, where critics claimed turning off the lights between midnight and 5am would lead to an increase in the fear of crime on the city's streets.

The county council has said lights will not be switched off along main roads and the ruling Conservative group has insisted there will be exceptions to the switch off, including if streets have CCTV, traffic calming or if police say turning lights out will lead to an increase in crime.

And consultation is now underway to find out where those exemptions should be applied. The county council has divided its consultation into two phases - one is consulting with 'stakeholders' such as district and parish councils, local councillors and the safer neighbourhood teams.

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The second is consultation with people living on the individual streets where the lights are earmarked to be turned off after midnight.

Both sets of consultation have been completed in Wymondham. Stakeholders have been asked in Hethersett, Cringleford, Costessey, with people in Thetford and Dereham due to be asked later this year.

In Wymondham 2,373 letters were sent out but only 21 people responded, five in support and 16 objecting or seeking exemptions.

Families in Hethersett, Cringleford and Costessey will be consulted with next week, but people in the Greater Norwich area - where 7,800 lights are set to go out - will not be asked until next year.

However, Labour councillors in the city say the message they are receiving is that families are against the switch-off.

Bert Bremner, county and city councillor for Norwich's university ward, said: 'We are not afraid to ask people what they want so we arranged for every home in university ward, Norwich, to be asked what they wanted.

'Some people wanted the lights switched off but 95pc of those that replied were totally against the switch off. Many were concerned at the cost to the community in bigger insurance bills, increased crime, and increased fear of crime.

'The county Labour team are not saying stop the Norfolk black-out, but we are saying that Norfolk County Council must listen to the voice of each community.

'If the people say yes then the black-out can go ahead, but if the people in a community say no, then the black-out in that community must not happen.'

John Birchall, spokesman for Norfolk County Council, said: 'Every objection has been considered and all comments and assessments have been submitted to Mike Jackson, the director of environment, transport and development and cabinet member Adrian Gunson, who will decide whether to add further streets to those exempt from part-night lighting.

'Work will be starting in Wymondham at the end of the month and working through to September. It is hard to say when the first part-night equipped columns will be going up because not all streets or lights are being converted, and some decisions remain to be taken.'

Do you think it is a good idea to switch off street lights between midnight and 5am? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email