Concern as more councils in England and Wales plan to turn off street lights

The county of Norfolk contains some of the best stargazing spots in the UK and was one of the few places where it was possible to see the spectacle of the aurora borealis this winter, thanks to its dark skies unsullied by light pollution.

But the council’s attempts to plunge Norfolk roads into further darkness are being contested by groups worried about personal safety, particularly for women out alone.

The majority of councils across England and Wales have introduced measures to dim or cut street lights altogether over the past 15 years, some saving millions of pounds a year.

Now cash-strapped local authorities have increased the cuts in an effort to plug gaping holes in budgets, with Croydon, Cornwall, Havering and Hampshire the latest to declare plans to switch off lights.

Norfolk council said the cost of running its 54,000 street lights had more than doubled in the last couple of years to about £4m a year.

It has made savings of £15m since 2008 by introducing more energy efficient LED lighting, dimming some lights and switching off nearly 20,000 others between midnight and 5am. It now intends to extend this to more streets and longer hours of darkness after consultations with police and local people.

In November, however, more than 200 students from the University of East Anglia signed a petition to stop further cuts, after 94% of students surveyed said they would feel safer if street lights were left on later.

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