Leave the lights off - scheme to switch off Norfolk’s street lights overnight saves almost £700,000

Sodium yellow glow from one of very few street lights in the Norfolk village of Hempnall; Photo: Bil

Sodium yellow glow from one of very few street lights in the Norfolk village of Hempnall; Photo: Bill Smith; Copy: Pete Walsh; For: Archant; Archant © 2010; 01603 772434 - Credit: Archant © 2010

Thousands of Norfolk street lights which are switched off overnight will stay dark, after a review found that crime concerns around the scheme had not materialised.

The street lights in Avenue Road, Norwich. The Norfolk County Council are considering turning off so

The street lights in Avenue Road, Norwich. The Norfolk County Council are considering turning off some street lights in selected areas of Norwich and Norfolk.< NB. Avenue Road is just an example of lights> Photo: Denise Bradley Copy: Dan Grimmer For: EDP/EN ©Archant Photographic 2009 01603 772434 - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2009

In recent years, Norfolk County Council has targeted the 52,000-plus street lights it operates, installing LED alternatives, switching them off during the night and removing some completely, as part of a pledge to halve its carbon emissions by 2020.

A new council report has praised the success of the initiatives, which are estimated to have saved £1.4m and roughly 7,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions since 2008.

In particular, it highlights the impact of so-called part-night lighting, where street lights are turned off from 12am to 5am, a practice which has been applied to more than 18,700 lights and has saved £693,232 to date.

It initially sparked concern among communities worried the early-hours black-out would lead to a rise in crime and antisocial behaviour.

But according to the report, there is 'no evidence' to support the link and the council says it now receives 'very few complaints from the public'.

Terry Jermy, county councillor for Thetford and member of the Environment Development and Transport Committee, which will debate the report on Friday, said he regularly received complaints over the switch-offs.

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'People living in rural areas are often quite happy to have their lights turned off because light pollution is a serious issue,' he said. 'But in an area like Thetford, where we have a lot of shift workers, or in Norwich, where there are a lot of university students, the concerns are much greater.

'It is one of the biggest complaints I continue to receive.'

He said people living in affected areas paid the same council tax as those with continuous lighting, and said replacing lights with LED bulbs was a more cost-efficient option.

But Joe Mooney, county councillor for Wymondham, said part-night lighting in the town had been successful, with few problems reported.

'We treat it on a case by case basis and in Wymondham we consulted a lot of people,' he said, 'and generally people supported it.

'We take account of safety and in Wymondham street lights aren't off on main pedestrian or bus routes, or in the town centre.

'I think people have appreciated the savings and the environmental impact.'

Though the report highlights the success of part-night lighting, which saved £161,800 in energy costs in 2015/16 alone, it does not recommend introducing new areas to the scheme.

The council says it works alongside Norfolk police and responds to requests for lights to be turned back on if issues are known.

The report also acknowledges that the future growth of the county is a 'significant issue', with thousands of new homes - and street lights - to be built over coming years.

It is a similar picture in Suffolk, where thousands of streets have been plunged into darkness overnight as part of a Suffolk County Council drive to slash emissions by 60pc by 2025.

• Have you been affected by street lights being switched off? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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