Street lights switch-off anger

Liz Coates A MOVE to switch off thousands of street lights across the borough would turn parts of Great Yarmouth into a muggers' paradise, it was claimed this week.

Liz Coates

A MOVE to switch off thousands of street lights across the borough would turn parts of Great Yarmouth into a muggers' paradise, it was claimed this week.

Norfolk council leaders have revealed where thousands of street lights could be switched off at midnight (1am in summer) under plans to save cash - but the move has sparked concerns over safety.

The scheme has been blasted as “discomforting” by borough councillor Mick Castle, who says the proposal is at odds with other safety initiatives like CCTV installed to keep a lid on crime.

The county 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.

A 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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Mr Castle said: “When I was on the county council we used to have petitions from villagers who did not want street lights, but I am a townie and I think for a lot of people who live in Yarmouth the idea is a bit beyond the pale. I know they are talking about keeping the lights on main roads but there are a lot of small roads around here and they would be a muggers' paradise. Even if there were not a threat to life and limb I cannot imagine women would be comfortable walking about. It is a real retrograde step. It is one thing in the villages but a different thing in the town. I view the idea of turning the lights off at midnight with some discomfort. We expect them to make economies, but not in this way.”

John Holmes, whose borough council ward includes Cobholm and Southtown questioned the thinking behind plunging areas like Mill Road into total darkness. “I am really concerned that the people of Southtown and Cobholm are going to be left without lights in great chunks of the streets. It's all about quality of life. Whole areas are going to be in darkness for five hours - it does not mean that crime will escalate but we just do not know.”

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.

“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.

“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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