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Norfolk street lights could be dimmed

PUBLISHED: 09:41 30 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:28 03 July 2010

STREET lights across Norfolk could be switched off to slash energy bills under radical council plans to save cash.

Council bosses looking to balance the books ahead of next year's budget said that turning off lights in “quiet residential streets” in low-crime areas between midnight and 5am could save £200,000 a year.

STREET lights across Norfolk could be switched off to slash energy bills under radical council plans to save cash.

Council bosses looking to balance the books ahead of next year's budget said that turning off lights in “quiet residential streets” in low-crime areas between midnight and 5am could save £200,000 a year.

But councillors and safety groups warned the scheme could lead to more crime and accidents if not given careful thought.

The council's street light energy bill is currently £2m a year, and the authority is in the process of replacing lights with more efficient models.

The plans, which will go before councillors at a meeting on WednesdaY, suggest that 7,700 of those upgraded lights could also be fitted with devices to automatically turn them off after midnight.

Combined with other measures, such as dimming lights on main roads, County Hall estimates it would make savings of up to £200,000 a year.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “This is an interesting concept worth serious investigation.

“When we asked Norfolk's Citizens' Panel what they thought about street lights being left on after midnight, when very few people are out and about, almost 70pc thought it was a waste of money and energy.”

But opposition councillors are concerned that leaving parts of the city in darkness could increase crime levels.

Bert Bremner, Labour county councillor and the executive member for community safety and cohesion on Norwich City Council, warned the move may endanger families.

He said: “The idea of walking around in the dark with a torch is quite disconcerting, so it's got to be thought about very carefully. They've got a lot of money to find. It's part of a whole cost-cutting plan.

“I just hope that the cost-cutting doesn't take over from the needs of the community and cost us more in crime.”

Switching off or dimming lights could also lead to more traffic crashes, said Carl Cristopher of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

He said: “There's definitely a solid case to be said that street lighting improves the safety of road users and pedestrians. It does prevent accidents.

“What we hope is Norfolk County Council will really have a look at this and do their homework before switching off.”

Norfolk police were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press, but said that a statement would be issued later today.

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