Street light switch off plan blasted

Norfolk council leaders have revealed where tens of thousands of street lights could be switched off under plans to save cash - but the move has sparked concerns over safety.

Norfolk council leaders have revealed where tens of thousands of street lights could be switched off under plans to save cash - but the move has sparked concerns over safety.

The scheme has been blasted as “dangerous” by the city councillor responsible for community safety in Norwich, who says the proposal is motivated entirely by cost-cutting.

Norfolk County Council had already announced the controversial proposals to switch off lights at midnight (1am in summertime) in quiet residential areas as they looked to slash energy bills to help balance the books ahead of next year's budget.

But now council officials have sent district and parish councils a letter explaining where lights would be switched off.

The council's street light energy bill, for more than 45,000 lights across the county, is �2m a year and the authority is in the process of replacing lights with more efficient models fitted with cells which switch off after midnight.

The letter to parish and district councils outlines where those cells will be fitted to some of the new lights being installed as part of the replacement programme or during planned maintenance - and shows up to 26,800 could be switched off after midnight.

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Breckland Labour group leader Robin Goreham has called for a full debate on the plans, saying people would worry about the possible impact on crime of turning off the lights.

Bert Bremner, Norwich City Council's executive member for community safety and community cohesion, and county councillor for University division, said: “This isn't based on what's right in terms of community safety, it's simply about trying to save money.”

He added: “This feels like it is being rushed through. It is unacceptable. It's not safe and it's a dangerous thing to do.”

But Adrian Gunson, the county council's cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “We are only talking about switching off about half the street lights between certain times and we would not switch off the ones which are important for community safety.

“For example, in Norwich, we would not turn off the lights of Prince of Wales Road or St Stephen's Street and we wouldn't be switching off at the market place in Dereham.

“We are taking into account community safety and that's why we are looking at quiet, residential areas. My feeling is that there are very few people walking about in those areas between midnight and 5am.

“But that's why we are asking the parishes and districts - to see if there are areas which do need to have street lighting all night that we haven't taken into account.

“And it's not just about money. It's about reducing CO2 emissions. We are all seeking to save on carbon emissions and we think that's a good way for the council to do that.”

A report on the proposal will be discussed by the planning, transportation, environment and waste overview and scrutiny panel on January 6 before the cabinet makes its decision when it meets on January 25.

If the change is agreed, the county council is keen to start introducing the part-time lighting in the following few months and complete the programme by the end of 2012/13.

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