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Street light decision called in

PUBLISHED: 10:00 03 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:30 30 June 2010

The controversial decision to switch off thousands of street lights around Norfolk is to be put under the spotlight again because councillors say proper consultation has not been carried out.

The controversial decision to switch off thousands of street lights around Norfolk is to be put under the spotlight again because councillors say proper consultation has not been carried out.

The Liberal Democrat and Green groups at Norfolk County Council have “called in” part of the decision made by the council's ruling Conservative cabinet, which means it will be looked at again by the council's scrutiny committee.

The cabinet agreed last week to press ahead with a plan to replace 27,000 street lights, 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, but concerns have been raised that crime, or at least the fear of it, will increase, especially in Norwich.

County Hall says lights will be kept on in main roads, in the city centre and in high crime areas, while exemptions will be applied to stop lights being switched off in areas with CCTV and where police say turning them out would increase crime.

But those exemptions will be decided by Mike Jackson, the county council's director of planning and transportation, with assistance from Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, and opposition councillors have concerns about that.

Andrew Boswell, leader of the Green group, said: “That's the clause which we have called in - focusing on the lack of consultation that there has been so far, but more importantly on how to make sure residents and councillors are involved when the exemptions are decided.

“We want to ensure there is a mechanism by which the community and councillors can be involved in determining which lights should stay on, possibly by creating some sort of panel which does not make decisions but oversees the process and can arbitrate on it.”

The Labour group did not join in with the calls to bring the street light question to the scrutiny committee, with group leader George Nobbs convinced the ruling administration would pay no heed to concerns raised.

He has sent a strongly worded letter to chief executive David White saying the administration's “eyes, ears and minds” are closed to challenge from anyone who does not agree with them.

But council leader Daniel Cox said: “Cabinet does respond to calls from the cabinet scrutiny group and I myself appeared before it recently to answer questions about the Norfolk Infrastructure Fund.

“On the issue of street lights, the Norwich Area Committee had raised concerns, but the cabinet took a view across the county. Just because Mr Nobbs does not feel he is being listened to does not mean we do not listen.

“The electorate spoke very clearly in the past election and left Labour with three representatives, which I think sent a very clear message.”

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