Calls to switch on street lights to help women feel safer

Costessey Town council has agreed in principle to take on some 230 street lights from South Norfolk

Costessey Town council has agreed in principle to take on some 230 street lights from South Norfolk CouncilPicture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Strong calls are being made to switch on more street lights in Norwich and Norfolk, amid fears many people feel too scared to go out after dark.

Questions have been raised on how to keep women safe at night in the wake of 33-year-old Sarah Everard's disappearance and murder earlier this month in London.

Now, councillors have called for a review of streetlighting policy which keeps parts of the county in darkness for hours.

Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council's cabinet member for transport Picture: Steve Adams

Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council's cabinet member for transport Picture: Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

City councillor Mike Stonard, vice-chair of the Norwich Highways Agency committee and Labour group lead on highways issues, said: "This is something we have been saying for over 10 years and in the light of the tragic and appalling murder of Sarah Everard I am calling on the county council to immediately overturn their decision, switch the lights back on, and then look to see if that is adequate to ensure the safety of women and other members of the community and address that if they find that is not the case.” 

Broadland district councillor Natasha Harpley said: "I would welcome better street lighting, as long as it is targeted rather than a blanket policy, but it is not going to fix everything.

"There's a view that street lighting or CCTV makes everything safer, but that's not true. 

"They are a good deterrent for general crime, such as drug dealing down dark alleyways, but it just moves it somewhere else."

In 2017, a study by the University of East Anglia Students' Union found 56pc of students living in Norwich had experienced street harassment or had been followed while walking home at night.

In December, Great Yarmouth Borough Council vowed to fix faulty streetlights amid concerns parts of the town centre were being left in "total darkness" every night, while broken streetlights proved a similar issue in Thetford in January 2020.

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Breckland councillor Harry Clarke said: "While increased lighting may not change the prevalence of such incidents, it will certainly have a deterrent effect and may make everybody, particularly women, feel safer, although no one should be put in this position.

"We need to give reassurance and support to all in our communities whose harrowing experiences have been documented this week."

Norfolk County Council (NCC) is responsible for more than 50,000 street lights, while other local councils in the region are responsible for another 20,000.

As part of energy and cost saving measures, 'part night lighting' is in place in low crime areas, where lights are switched off for five hours, with NCC working alongside Norfolk Police to identify areas where dusk to dawn lighting will help reduce crime.

Natasha Harpley, Broadland District Councillor for Sprowston has launched a petition calling on Firs

Natasha Harpley, Broadland District Councillor for Sprowston has launched a petition calling on First to reinstate the Linacre Loop. Pic: Labour Party. - Credit: Labour Party

Tim Adams, one of the co-ordinators of Cromer Cares community group.

Tim Adams, one of the co-ordinators of Cromer Cares community group. - Credit: Tim Adams

North Norfolk district councillor for Cromer Tim Adams said: "We had someone raise concerns about a poorly-lit area of Cromer this week and it may be there are other areas of the town and county where people feel the same, and I would hope the county council are receptive to these requests.

"In Cromer, I hope people feel safe walking the streets, but I would urge anyone who does feel vulnerable or in danger to ring the police, and I hope as a community we can learn from this."

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Martin Wilby, NCC cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: “We have a clear policy of working with the police and only having part-night lighting in areas with a low crime rate. We will look at any additional guidance that comes from the government.”

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