Part-Night Street Lighing | An e-mail correspondence

22 April 2014, 22:57

Thanks for contacting both Roy Hill  and myself

As I outlined in my previous email, the  decision to switch-off the street lights between 00:30 and 05:30 was made by Devon County Council – and they decided to do this in order to save significant amounts of money in order to preserve services elsewhere.

There is no legal requirement or statutory duty for DCC to provide street lighting throughout the night. However, DCC street Lighting officers met with City and County councillors to discuss the policy of PNSL .

Many cllrs put forward your fears about safety – but we were informed by DCC officers that in general incidents of crime did not rise, even though residents might have a greater fear of crime because the street lights were switched-off. DCC said that this has been shown to be true as they rolled-out the PNSL policy across Devon over the past 5 years.

I have continually asked for hard evidence of this to help reassure residents such as yourself – bu this has not been forthcoming.

This view – that crime doesn’t increase during periods of PNSL – was echoed by senior neighbourhood police officers at one of our regular  liaison meetings with  them. Their view was that current criminals would continue to commit crime whether light or dark, but switch-ing off the lights might even act as  a  deterrent to some petty criminals.

As councilllor I receive monthly crime statistics from our local PCSO and I have asked Darren to highlight any marked increase in the incidence of  night-tme crime during the time the lights are switched-off. I will keep you informed.

One the face of it, you suggestion to leave every other one on seems to be a good one. When we put this forward to the police, their reasoning against the idea was

1) For car drivers, this would give a distracting strobe effect and they were concerned that this would be likely to cause accidents.

2) The current arrangement of street lighting gives an even spread of light – switching alternate ones off would create patches of light and dark – and the police feel that this is more risky. With complete darkness, the eyes get used to it, whereas in your scenario, eyes would be constantly adjusting. The police feel this is a potentiap for increased street crime, as criminals could lurk in the dark, waiting to pounce.

I recount the above to try and give you reassurance that your councillors have already been trying to ensure that the policy that DCC seemed intent on delivering (switching-off the street lighting for part of the night) occurs in the safest way possible. I am sorry if those efforts haven’t succeeded in your case and that you find the darkness stressful and unpleasant.

As I have said, local cllrs have already made several strong points on behalf of residents, so we  are now keen for DCC to hear directly the views of our local residents.  That is why we are suggesting that you contact DCC street lighting team directly to let them know your own specific concerns and fears.

They can be contacted by phone on 0845 155 1004 or by e-mail at lighting@devon.gov.uk with your concerns.

It would be useful for us if you used e-mail and copied us into your comments.

DCC have promised to meet us in about 6 months time to review comments from residents and see how the policy is progressing in Cowick. At that time, we will le you know what the outcome of that meeting is.

Regards

Paul

23 April 2014 01:52

Thanks for replying to my email regarding the street lighting.

I feel that the response feels that we are stuck with the lights being kept off at night, and that some of my points that I raised with you still haven’t been answered fully.

First of all, I would like to thank you for adding the links to various pages regarding the switching off of street lights. I see that you have used various mediums to ‘try’ and get the message out. As I pointed out in my initial email, I am a regular shift worker, so it is hard trying to keep up to date on Facebook, Twitter (which I am not a member…) or find it hard to tune in to Radio Devon as if I am at work I cannot listen to the Radio or am asleep if working the late shift the night before. I still feel that the light switch off was put on to the people of Cowick without any sense of appeal and is a severely a bad idea. The first I was really aware that the lights were going off was when I was travelling home from work during the ‘blackout’ period.

I disagree with Devon County Council with the point you have talked about above. We will not know about crime statistics until something happens, which it probably will! By that time it is too late to do anything to prevent someone being robbed, mugged, attacked or  even raped! If you have asked for ‘hard evidence’ regarding Crime Statistics, how come that the go ahead for the lights being off in Cowick has gone ahead?? As you promised above, It would be great if you could keep me, and the rest of the Cowick ward updated as and when they come available.

Also, the point made about regarding a strobe effect on car drivers. I feel that it’s no different to the sort of strobe effect when all the lights are on. Myself, being a car driver, understand but I feel that it would be better than total darkness, as it the case now, with drivers driving around residential street with the ‘full beam’ headlights on to see where you are going. Only last night, when I arrived home from work at 00:50, all streetlights have extinguished at that point. Upon locking my car, another motorist driving along had to swerve away from myself at the last moment, luckily I was still wearing my HV jacket which is part of my work clothing he saw me in time to act. I dread to think what would have happened if I wasn’t wearing that! I feel that a complete lack of lighting is a lot more dangerous than only every other one being left on.

The second point, regarding only having every other light on, If Devon County Council have no legal requirement to provide street lighting, why is street lighting provided in the first place?? This to me seem a contradicting statement from the council. I also disagree about people who would lurk in areas caused by only having half the lights on. Surely, by having half on half off, this would be safer to have some lights on than not at all??

If these lights are being turned off to save money, can’t other things be done to help? If they want to turn off lights to save money, Can’t other kinds of streetlights be turned off??  Can’t Pelican/Traffic Light Crossings and Zebra Crossings be turned off in order to save money between 00.30 and 05.30?? Zebra Crossing – you could switch off the one in Okehampton Road and Dunsford Road (by Littleway), Pelican Crossings, there are three in Cowick Street, they are opposite the Doctors, opposite the church and opposite the Halifax and NatWest Banks, and one in Buddle Lane opposite the Wool Shop, to name but a few!! Could this be an avenue to explore??

Just a quick point, but would it be an idea for yourself, and other councillors along with the police, and your voters be invited to walk around Cowick in the areas that have lost their street lighting after 00.30?? This maybe a good idea, for when the 6 months review meeting is about,  it would serve as a useful excise in order to gauge an opinion and concerns for yourselves to see what is really like out on those streets, for people who do have to move around at night between 00.30 and 05.30. At the moment, it feels that the people in Devon County Council who are making these decisions ,don’t understand, as they are probably tucked up in bed, how it feels in this situation of walking about in total darkness in a residential area with the many dangers you do and could face even more serious dangers.

You mention that there is to be a meeting in 6 months with Devon County Council regarding this situation, are local voters also allowed to attend to voice their concerns or is this just with yourself and other councillors?? Could I suggest a meeting with voters prior to this Meeting with DCC would be a good idea for people, so then its even more chance for people to voice their concerns about the streetlights, for those who haven’t been able to contact your or DCC??

I have also attached two photographs taken in my road this morning at 00.30, and shows a ‘Before and After’ view of with and without lights. You can clearly see a difference in lighting levels, and I know which one I would prefer!  With lights, you can clearly see the curbs, uneven pavements to name but a few. Without the lights, you can’t see anything…

I strongly disagree to Devon County Councils plans for these streetlights, and I do hope that it is not permanently implemented…

I look forward to your reply…

23 April 2014, 7:06,

Ah, the late bird catches the early worm?

I will admit that DCC haven’t made it a smooth journey from when we first met them in June 2013 to the first switch-off in Alphington and Cowick.

At that meeting with cllrs (only held at our strong insistence), we put up all your objections, and more.

We suggested that DCC follow the example of Plymouth City Council, who borrowed £25m over 25 years at the low interest rates that local authorities and convert all street lights to LED. Payback would be within 10 years or so.

DCC rejected this idea outright – their reasoning was that because they switched the lights off elsewhere in the county, those areas would get annoyed!

DCC were adamant that they going ahead with the PNSL regardless of what we – or anyone else – thought or said.

However, as cllrs, we insisted that DCC carry out a public consultation process . Which they did – of a sorts.

There was a badly advertised series of meetings – Cowick and Alphington had one at West Exe Technology College. DCC didn’t give us much notice to help publicise the meeting.

I couldn’t attend the meeting at West Exe, but as I was and am taking a strong interest in PNSL I attended 2 of the other public meetings. The one in Priory had about 8 members of the public. And the one in St Thomas was attended by 3 DCC Street Lighting officers, Cllr Ruffle from Alphington, myself and ONE member of the public – a resident of Pennsylvania!

We asked for DCC to find a venue within Cowick to hold a public exhibition – there are very few public buildings within the ward and DCC “couldn’t find anywhere to put the maps and details up”. Even though we suggested their own WestSide Youth Centre and we had an offer from the Baptist Church on Dorset Avenue after we asked them if they would.

I can’t say this conclusively, but it was my impression that DCC were planning to start PNSL across the city on the same night – I would like to think that pressure from city and county cllrs made them rethink that idea and roll out the scheme across the city in the way they now are doing.

The initial plan for Cowick was to switch-off completely apart from the B3212 from Pocombe Bridge to the First and Last junction. DCC plans were for A and B roads to be left lit and this is the only classified road in the ward.

We brought pressure to bear on DCC and they conceded that Cowick Lane and Buddle Lane should also be excluded from the blackout zone. DCC also listed to our fears about the cut-through from Buddle Lane to Merrivale Road alongside Bowhill School (along what is known locally as “The Slope”) and this is now remains lit as a “walking route”.

DCC are even very quite about their own webpages dedicated to the subject of Exeter PNSL!

Despite my frequent requests to them, the pages are outdated. I would like to see the roll-out schedule (St Thomas and Exwick start of 01/05/14) listed.I would like to see maps – ideally interactive. However, it seems that no budget or staff resources were allocated to this to make the introduction of PNSL as widely known as possible.

Just a few weeks ago, a copy of the Citizen was delivered to every household in Exeter and I was shocked to see that the DCC insert had nothing about the forthcoming switch-off of lights across the city.

Since the announcement of the scheme by DCC in May, we have done our best to engage with and inform local residents.

It has been mentioned at a public meeting we held with Stagecoach in June to discuss the P Bus.

We mention it regularly when we attend coffee mornings at the Baptist Church in Dorset Avenue – we try and have at least one of the 3 cllrs there on the first Thursday of each month from 10:00 to 12:00.

It has been mentioned on at least 2 newsletters.

Since October, we have been out and about talking to local residents 2-3 times a week, asking them about local issues and highlighting the PNSL scheme.

But we are aware that our reach is limited.

Many are happy with the lights going out, while others like yourself have valid fears and concerns.

That’s why we have been asking local residents to make their own representations direct to DCC.

Tonight, I hope to be at one of our quarterly liaison meetings with senior officers of Devon & Cornwall Police’s Neighbourhood Policing team and rest assured PNSL will be one of the topics to be discussed. I will let you know the outcome.

And to the future?

We are always looking at new ways to engage with and inform local residents.

We deliver newsletters to our 2300 households

We know that many see the Labour brand on our newsletters and immediately put them in (hopefully, green recycling) bin without reading them.

We knock on doors throughout the year, but we know miss as many residents as we see.

Since October 2013, I estimate we have spoken to over 1000 of Cowick’s 5650 residents.

Even if people answer the door, they rarely engage – it’s not an isolated incident, to have the door shut on us when we announce ourselves

As I’ve already said, we try and maintain a social media presence.

But Cowick has the second highest count of people over 65 (22.6%), and many don’t even have an e-mail account, yet alone follow Twitter or use Facebook

Following the elections at the end of May, we will be looking at ways to meet more residents – we are already looking at making our attendance at the Baptist Church more of a surgery for local residents as we will have access to a room for confidential conversations.

Perhaps we could meet up over a coffee to chat about how we can keep shift-workers like yourself and others informed – would a monthly e-mailing from us help?

Many thanks for this conversation – I really do welcome the views of Cowick residents

Best wishes

Paul

Sent: 23 April 2014 12:58

Paul,

Yes, they certainly do…

It is a shame that Devon County Council are not playing ball. I believe that the LCD option would benefit everybody concerned. Prior to this PNSL came in, I did notice that the electric company went around a changed the heads on all street lights around the ward. The heads now have small aerials attached, presuming this is to do with the switching off?? Why wasn’t the chance taken to replace the bulbs with LEDs at that point?? How come Plymouth can have this, but Exeter, the capital city of Devon can’t?

Again, it’s a shame that the meetings were poorly advertised, and that the council didn’t give anyone any time to react to this ‘proposal or indeed have presentations laid on’. Surely, if they need to make major changes with services they provide, surely they need to have a certain amount of consultation meetings with residents?? It seems to me that Devon County Council have made up their minds up over this situation, as it comes across that this will be brought in ‘though the back door’ and not giving people ample time and viewing of proposals in a certain place. You say they couldn’t set up a display in the youth centre in Merrivale Road. This, I believe, is a very poor show from the Devon County Council. I see this morning my polling card came through, I see they’ve managed to secure the use of the hall for this.

Also, the meetings that took place last year, I believe we should have had a meeting later than this, nearer the date of the switch off!

I assume the majority of people that agree with the lights going out Do these people go out when its dark, meaning that it doesn’t concern them??

I am still unconvinced about the switching off, and feel very concerned and alarmed at it. I have also contacted DCC with my views, and await a reply from them also.

At your meeting with the police this evening, you can show them my two pictures that I took, to show them what it is actually like out there.  If you can let me know the outcome of this meeting I would be grateful.

Meeting up for a coffee would be good. Are you planning on being at the Baptist Church in Dorset Avenue, at the next coffee morning which I assume is on Thurs 1st May?? I am planning to visit to discuss various things with yourself, including the streetlights and possible options for better means of contacting people who are on shifts, etc with emails, social media and the like.

Kind Regards

Sent: 23 April 2014 21:42

I’m enjoying this conversation about street lighting!

The reason that Plymouth can make its own decision it that’s it’s a unitary authority – it controls the function of both DCC and ECC.

Similarly, ECC run the elections and pay DCC for the use of Westside Youth Centre on election day

The aerials attached to the lamp heads allow remote control of each street lamp by DCC Highways Control Centre – it’s linked to a Central Monitoring System that DCC Cabinet approved a spend of £1.7m on – way before any of the proposals were made, let alone any of the “consultation” . The decision to go ahead with switching off street lights in Exeter was taken when they approved this spend (Feb 2012, I believe), although the PNSL policy across Devon was taken much earlier – around 2008 from memory.

The Central Monitoring System allows individual street lights to be switched on by Highways control – and D&C Police neighbourhood policing teams tonight  have confirmed what local PCSOs have told me…that in the event  of an incident, the 2 control rooms will speak to each other and the relevant lights will be switched back on.

The West of Exe Sergeant has confirmed tonight that there has been no increase in crime reporting or road traffic incidents in Alphington and Cowick during the hours of 00:30 and 05:30 since 01/04/14.

And he assures me that he is keeping a close eye on such reporting.

I have been at work in London today, and logging-in to Council e-mails is not that easy when on the move, so I wasn’t able to present your photos to the meeting – but I will forward them to the local team and ask for their comments.

Yes, you are correct in the assumption that the majority of people who are happy to see (or not see, as it were) PNSL are not out at night, and that’s why were a proactively encouraging those with fears and concerns to make their views known directly to DCC Street Lighting team.

I would be extremely interested in seeing the reply from DCC to your comments.

And I do hope to be at the coffee morning on 01/05. I look forward to continuing this conversation

Best wishes

Paul

Sent: 26 April 2014 04:36

Paul,

Thanks again for the reply…

That would explain that’s why the hall is available if they are receiving an income from ECC…

Thanks for the explanation regarding the street light aerials. Although I am still not convinced about the lights being switched back on if there was an incident, as by this time it would be too late it is was to be prevented.

It seems to be quite barmy for them to be switched off at night, but other rural areas are still left on. The other evening I was in Feniton at 01.00, and their village street lights were still on! We are a city, with more people moving around 24/7 and we can’t have the light to remain on.

Also, of note, coming into Exeter on the A30 for the Airport direction, there are a great number  of ‘streetlights’ between the Airport and J29 of the M5. Upon joining the M5 at J29 along to J30, again more lights! Whilst travelling along these stretches, I was the only car about, so why haven’t DCC switched these off instead of residential streets?? as cars that use these main roads need to be fitted with lights by law, this seems a waste of money as these lights on these main road don’t affect pedestrians.

I did take the time to have a look at DCC’s website, and read some of the people’s comments, and its seem I am not the only one to be concerned, as it seems there are various other shift workers that feel the same! Lets hope the lights get switched back on that common sense prevails. If its ok with yourself, would it be possible for me to forward our correspondence onto DCC??

Also, do you know what the Express and Echo‘s views are on this at all?? I didn’t know if they were going to run a ‘campaign’ for readers to also voice their concerns?? Might be worth considering to add weight and to highlight the residents plight of leaving the lights on?? 

Just a thought…

Sent: 27 April 2014 08:36

I think it’s OK to use my side of these conversations – I’ve checked through and I don’t think I said anything I wouldn’t say directly to DCC street lighting officers (need to ensure I can continue to get responses from them in the future). They may say that they always intended to roll-out PNSL in a phased way across Exeter.

Like you I was driving on country roads on Friday evening – from Coventry to Exeter. Miles of roads with NO street lighting at all – car highlights enough to see by (including a rural fox dashing into undergrowth). Burst water mains near Ashworth meant there were problems to be encountered on the journey – not nothing beyond the capability of a safe driver. people were out and about – on bright clothing and with torches!

DCC have talked about leaving the lights on in areas of high night-time activity so the city centre is not affected by PNSL proposals. Yet the quayside is plunged into darkness at 00:30. I want to reassured that it will be safe when leaving the bright city centre and crossing the borders into wards of PNSL!

As to turning the lights back on, I believe this refers to a *major* or *serious* incident – road traffic collision, flooding in Topsham, etc

Not sure if DCC have thought about a mechanism for consultation if there are a spate of incidents within an area that would warrant reversing the PNSL

PNSL will be introduced throughout Devon in due course. Much of the county is already is part night. No idea of the schedule for the rest of Devon (including Feniton).

I sit as an ECC rep on the DCC Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders (Exeter HATOC) committee and have raised the idea of switching-off traffic signals (or making them convert to flashing amber) at night. We’ve been told that DfT won’t allow us to do this – but am continuin gto research and pursue.

You could try and instigate an E&E campaign – they don’t seem to have come up with a position.

Regarding their recent reporting of the research of The AA findings – I’ve contacted AA direct to see if I can get more about their data. I’m guessing that they are only looking and KSI (killed and serious incidents) figures.I want to know if this actually reflects what is happening or is it coincidence. Maybe the data reflects the findings of  impact assessments (and risk assessments) carried out by the highways authorities instigating PNSL show that they have decided to keep lights on in area of high KSI rating to give the 35% reductions mentioned – and the areas they did switch off, already had little or no known incidents.

I am keen to make sure whatever DCC do is safe for all – those in bed at 00:29 and those on the streets at 00:31. If DCC can save money at the same time, so much the better.

I would like to experience dark skies – but not at the expense of danger (of crime, road traffic incidents, etc) to residents of Cowick

Paul
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