Blackout plans: 'crime could fall'

Liz Coates CRIME levels in areas where street lights could be switched off for part of the night to save money and reduce carbon emissions could go down rather than up, it was claimed this week.

Liz Coates

CRIME levels in areas where street lights could be switched off for part of the night to save money and reduce carbon emissions could go down rather than up, it was claimed this week.

Evidence from other towns which have introduced part lighting points to a reduction in crime levels rather than the assumed increase, a county hall spokesman said this week.

Assurances also came that although Norfolk County Council's powerful cabinet committee will decide on January 25 whether to go ahead with the scheme to switch off almost 27,000 lights for five hours individual streets will not be plunged into darkness overnight and residents will have plenty of time to make their views known.

In fact a spokesman said it could be two or three years until people see any change, adding that communities will be given plenty of notice and the chance to explain why their street should be excluded.

John Birchall said that already some suggested streets had been wiped off the agenda because of worries about safety, heavy traffic and the quality of CCTV that that county hall had received many letters from people wanting to illuminate the issue with their views.

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Locally Great Yarmouth's county councillors have had a patchy response with those responsible for urban wards reporting more disquiet among residents.

Tom Garrod, who represents Yarmouth North and Central said two people had contacted him from Windsor Avenue where five street lamps may be switched off at midnight and that he had fed their comments into the consultation process. He added that he was happy for people to contact him directly.

Graham Plant whose Breydon Ward includes Bradwell North and Burgh Castle said he had received feedback from several constituents with genuine concerns about safety. He called for a closer look at the list which details on a street by street basis which of the lights could be switched off, with more input from the police and local people, adding: “It could be dangerous in certain areas but there are some areas where we are wasting money. Just because there are low levels of crime in some areas doesn't mean it will stay that way when they are switched off.” He said the drive for savings needed to be balanced with safety, adding: “We are talking about people's quality of life and we have to get it right.”

Bert Collins, who represents Gorleston St Andrews said he had received a letter from a shift worker worried about her safety.

“If I had my way we would not do it, but we have to look at everything we can to save �140m over the next three years,” he said.

From his position serving some of the rural northern parishes in West Flegg, including Martham, Michael Carttiss said he was not aware of any debate among people in his ward and that he had no particular view, although if anyone was to raise an issue with him he would pursue it.

Colleen Walker, whose ward covers a chunk of Gorlesotn, said she was shocked at the lack of feedback. Although some people had come to her with concerns, notably from Elmgrove Road which is being looked at again, few people seemed concerned.

Even among her neighbours in Paddock Close, Belton, where 22 lights are set to go out, there had been little discussion she said, adding it was “not an altogether bad idea.”

Brian Iles who represents Acle said he understood the proposals had been gone into thoroughly and that most people in Acle were happy to go along with it, given the cost and carbon savings.

County hall spokesman John Birchall, said: “We are trying to get a rapid decision because we are part way through a replacement programme of our street lights and it is cheaper to do this while we are replacing them. The older ones cannot be switched off individuall, they have a different type of control. Where the five hour switch off will come in is only on residential streets that are not heavily trafficked and have a low crime rate.

“We are not going in straight away and turning things off instantly. When it will happen we will let local people know. Where there are exceptional reasons there will be an opportunity to say so. It could be two or three years before any particular street or village sees this happening. We want to reduce carbon and make savings with, we think, minimal impact on most people.

“People are concerned that if you have dark streets crime will go up but there is not evidence of that. There is however some evidence that it goes down, although the places where it has been done are limited.”

To make your views know contact your parish council or county councillor or write to the Department of Planning and Transportation at County Hall, Norwich.