Fresh bid to scale back Norfolk’s street lighting is launched

Street lights.

Street lights. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2009

A fresh bid to switch off more of Norfolk's street lights and reduce the £2.2m annual energy bill has been launched.

Terry Jermy

Terry Jermy - Credit: Archant

Moves to plunge some streets into darkness between midnight and 5am had sparked safety fears when Norfolk County Council agreed measures in 2010.

Andrew Boswell

Andrew Boswell - Credit: Submitted

But more than 18,000 lights are now switched off for part of the night, and the authority is looking at further cuts.

It comes as the authority aims to reduce carbon emissions to half of the 2008 baseline by 2020.

Street lighting energy accounts for 15% of the council's total energy use, with the authority responsible for 51,000 street lights, 11,000 illuminated signs and 2,500 illuminated bollards.

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All street light upgrade and maintenance work is covered by a 25-year PFI contract, let to Amey in 2008, but the county council foots all electricity costs.

A raft of possible energy saving measures went before the authority's environment, development and transport committee for discussion yesterday.

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Options include:

- switching off more lights for part of the night

- switching some lights on later and off earlier

- dimming some lights

- getting rid of some lighting on main roads

- scrapping lights from illuminated signs and bollards where possible

- introducing energy-efficient LED lights

- introducing a computer system to turn lights on and off centrally

- adopting fewer street lights on new housing estates

While councillors said they recognised the need to cut costs and be more environmentally friendly, some of the options proved to be controversial.

Terry Jermy, for Thetford West division, said shift workers would fear crime if lights were switched off at night, and there were other dangers such as people tripping over tree roots protruding through the pavement.

Norfolk police said there had been no evidence of an increase in night time crime or anti-social behaviour when lights were switched off, but Mr Jermy said more research was needed.

Andrew Boswell, for Nelson division, said: 'I would say there is an effect of people feeling restricted in what they can do [when lights are switched off].

'In the area I live there's a big student population and that means there will probably be female students not going out after 11.30pm and nurses on shifts affected.

'There's a high impact on lifestyle.'

Colleen Walker, for Magdalen division, said: 'When vulnerable people perceive there's a problem with crime, it's very real to them.'

Richard Bird, for North Coast division, said light pollution was a problem in many small villages, but Bert Bremner, for University division, said the same approach should not be taken for the city.

Brian Iles, for Acle division, suggested city dwellers carry a torch at night as their country counterparts have to, and added: 'It's having a very serious impact on wildlife, as the birds think it's day time all the time and the dawn chorus starts up as they think it's morning.'

Joe Mooney, for Wymondham division, said switching off lights for part of the night in Wymondham had worked well.

But he stressed the county council must continue to adopt street lighting on new housing estates, or developers will not fit street lights and it will cost taxpayers more in the long term.

Officers listened to the councillors' comments and will prepare a more detailed set of options to be debated at the committee's November meeting.

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Street lights already switched off

Moves to switch off street lights in Norfolk have previously been made.

In 2010, Norfolk County Council agreed plans to switch off up to 27,000 lights across Norfolk, including 7,800 in Norwich, between midnight and 5am.

There was opposition from Norwich City Council, demanding consultation for fear of a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour.

Since then, just over 18,000 lights are switched off for part of the night.

County officers said this saves £121,000 per year and 7% in total energy consumption.

Around 1,700 lights are already dimmed, saving £35,000 annually, and 16,500 lights are switched on later and off earlier than is standard.

There are 3,190 LED lights in residential areas of Norfolk, which cost half as much to power as a traditional light.

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