Cowick Part-Night Street Lighting | General thoughts following DCC’s briefing to councillors

Despite answering many issues and concerns Devon County Council’s  briefing to councillors on 13 June 2013 still left many question unanswered and these are troubling me.

It ittle seems to have changed from when I first heard about these plans when I was first elected in May 2011, other than Devon County Council authorising the purchase of a Central Monitoring System at a cost of £1.7 million

DCC made great play in these initial discussions about consulting with your stakeholders.

However throughout the briefing, DCC officers constantly refer to only local electedmembers and the police.I hope similar discussions will be on-going with D&S Fire &Rescue Service and SW Ambulance Trust?

Paul Ewings introduction to the issue of part night street lighting opened with a serious of facts and figures about numbers of street lamps in Devon and the progress made so far.

I’ve asked DCC to send me a briefing sheet of these numbers.

One of the early facts suggested that with some 35,000 street lights switched off under PNSL, only 1,000 had been swtched back on. That’s 3% of the total.

To clarify more, I need the answers to:
– Where this occurred.?
– How long after the initial switch-off?
– And for what reason?

I am pleased that Devon County Council have recenetly updated the expired Equality Impact and Needs Assessment, but whta does concern me is that it is a wide-wide one.

Surely it might have been wise to have an Exeter focused one? Perhaps individual road/street risk assessments are to be carried out by highways officers?

Indeed, under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 [section 17] a Highway Authority must consider the effect on crime and disorder in this exercise of reducing street lighting and the need to do all it reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder.

From reading around the subject, it appears that Leicestershire County Council are doing exactly that and this should be a lead that I suggest that DCC follows

The senior officers and Cabinet members seemed surprised that councillors in Exeter take exception to the fact we “just like the rest of Devon”. Believe me, we feel markedly different from the rest of the county!

The outcry was similar when Norfolk County County started to implement PNSL in Norwick starting last year for exactly the same reasons.

Perhaps some lessons should have been learned from their experience?

So what Norfolk County Council did  do was to implement PNSL over an extended period, area by area. This would allow rapid response from agencies such as the police

From the information you have given me, it appears that DCC are attempting to impose a blanket PNSL in Exeter over a couple of weeks

You also picked up on the worry that the consultation is thought to be window dressing, and will only result in horse trading over which lights will be switched off.

As an example of this, at least one member cited the Cabinet’s decision to purchase the Central Monitoring System.

I on the other hand, welcome the Cabinet’s brave decision and you could be more proactive in championing the benefits the CMS will bring, even if PNSL isn’t implemented

1) Co-ordinated switch on/off of all lights across Exeter in line with the changing “lighting up” times across the year

2) Dimming of ALL lights – I point to the research of Dr Kate Painter eminent criminologist at the University of Cambridge which suggests that our streets are overlit and light levels could be reduced to 75% of the current levels

3) Interacticve feedback highlighting street lights that aren’t working

4) Police and others can arrange lights to come back almost immediately on if ther e is a problem.

…and many, many more reasons

But whilst I applaud the Cabinet on this decision, I am sorry they didn’t take stock of the current situation and reflect on where the rush of technological improvement now stands.

When DCC started to its journey to cut costs and reduce carbon footprint prior to starting to rool-out PNSL across, LED technology was admitted extremely expensive.

However, technological improvements have cut the cost of used LED and there are noticeable improvements in visibility on CCTV accompanied by phenomenal enegery savings.

Plymouth City Council have recently taken the step to introduce LEDs to replace all their existing SON luminaires. They say they will achieve energy savingsof around 70%, a welcome reduction in their carbon footprint.

Yes this will cost them millions, but with the PSBR still remarkably low, the cost of borrowing for local authorities remains relatively cheap. So by nvesting in this technology now, Plymouth feel they can have a  payback in 10 yeras and achieve a 15% return on the investment.

Is the reluctance to even consider LEDs – even if it was just for the central lights-on zone – in Exeter due to the fact that using this technology here in the city would open up the debate in Exmouth, Barnstaple, Newton Abbot  Tiverton, etc?

I am still worried that no-one nowhere has produced any reliable stastics on the introduction of PNSL. on crime rates.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence around hinting at crime rates staying constant or even reducing but no empirical data.

I’ve aleady spoken to a few residents around Cowick, and their first reaction is the FEAR of crime.

If we could convince them that crime doesn’t go up, Devon CC may be able to get its wish of turning off some street lights. If not, it would be a harder sell.

I would like to assist DCCin the aim to reduce you carbon footprint, and if that gives financial benefits to the County and allow you to provide other essential services comtinue as a spin-off, I need DCC to give me the tools to help achieve that

I end by pointing that I have yet to recieve any answers to the e-mail I sent to Devon County Council two years ago. And after the briefing, many of the points I raised then still remain unanswered today

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