Pulling my finger out on Part-Night Street Lighting

I’ve been contacted by a a resident about a number of issues, including part-night street lighting. He thinks  “it is about time our representatives pulled your collective fingers out and started doing what you were elected for.”

This is what we’ve been doing on street lights

Unfortunately there is no legal requirement for DCC to keep the street lights on.

DCC were always going to introduce Part-Night Street Lighting (PNSL) across the city, following their policy across the rest of the County.

We tried to get them to ‘invest to save’ in LED solutions being used in Plymouth and elsewhere. They were no prepared to even look at this option – they cited that other places such as Newton Abbot had made similar comments several years ago and were overruled – no mention that the cost of LED has reduced significantly over recent years.

On our advice, they held some limited consultation exercise – but it was too little, too late.

We managed to get them to keep some other roads lit – initially the only road DCC suggested was Dunsford Road – we managed them to consider Cowick Lane and Buddle Lane, as well as the cut-through from Buddle Lane to Merrivale Road.

And they refused to do the letter drops to exam and every household which we thought was necessary.

And on our suggestion, they are rolling out PNSL across the city in a slow and measured way – their initial ideal was for the whole of the city to go dark all at once.

We are working closely with the local neighbourhood policing team, who assure us that road traffic collisions and crime rates have been unaffected by the advent of PNSL – they’re the same with the lights off as they were with the lights on. And if crime rates do increase, DCC have said they would reverse the PNSL policy in that location (but have given us no indication on how that process might work!).

We’ve ensured that lights are switched on when there were the major utilities works around the ward – and at long last after pressure from us, the police can now ask for the street lights switched on immediately in the event of a major incident.

Knowing that DCC were always going to introduce this policy despite anything we might say, I have been ensuring that PNSL works as safely as it can.

Open letter to Cllr Stuart Hughes | Serious Concerns over Cowick Part-Night Street Lighting

Dear Stuart

I am getting extremely concerned over the delivery of PNSL in Cowick.

How can we have confidence in a system that seems to be failing in its basic operational requirements?

This week these failures seem to happening on an almost daily basis.

Putting aside the fact that in certain areas of Cowick, PNSL has been ending at 6am rather than the scheduled 5:30am, I learned earlier today (Friday 14/11/14) that Bowhay Lane was in pitch darkness again this morning as a shift worker left for work – this despite an assurance from DCC Street Light Team that for the duration of the utilities works there, PNSL would be suspended and Bowhay Lane would revert to ALL night street lighting

This is doubly frustrating because at 13:30 yesterday afternoon (Thursday 13/11/14), although it was gloomy in Cowick Lane it by no means pitch black, yet the lights in Bowhay Lane (and Charnley Avenue, Isleworth Road, Nadder Park Road, Barley Farm Road – and many others that I may not be aware of) where on.

I’m guessing that this was a re-occurance of the problem we discovered a couple of months ago – that the central control management system lost communication with the area controllers. So DCC still haven’t resolved that problem.

Kerswill Road was also lit by street lights at this time – this is the self-same road that Cllr Heather Morris was accused of being “unfair” when she was pressing for an answer as to why they hadn’t been reverted to ALL night street street lighting after 4 days.

Is this an “unfair” request? I don’t think so.

During the numerous briefings, conversations, “consultations”, and e-mails, I and many others wanted reassurances that PNSL would be safe.

If you remember, DCC’s response was along the lines of “of course it is, we’ve introduced PNSL across many areas of the county without any problems”

But what they hadn’t done was use a new £1.7m control management system – controlled by a computer running new software.

We were constantly being told that in the case of emergencies and other safety concerns , street lights could be turned on “at the flick of a switch”.

Comments from DCC Street Lighting Team suggest that, although this programme has been written, no-one has thought it necessary (7 months after PNSL was introduced into Cowick) to see if this software actually works.

This scares and frightens me.

I was  – and still am an advocate of PNSL – but only with the same  proviso I had at the June 2013 “if I can be assured that the safety of Cowick’s residents would not be compromised”

Since the lights of Bowhay Lane and Kerswill Road apparently couldn’t be converted to ALL night street lighting “at the flick of a switch”, I feel that the safety of Cowick’s residents is now being compromised.

I’m not sure what you  told Full Council in response to Cllr Richar d Westlake’s question on 02/10/14 (The minutes only record “Councillor Hughes commented, as requested by Councillor Westlake, on the reduction of street lighting hours in Exeter”) but I feel that more questions need to be answered urgently.

We were promised a meeting with DCC street lighting team for a 6 month review of PNSL in Cowick (and elsewhere West of the Exe). With PNSL starting on 01/04/14, this meeting was due in early October.

As we are now approaching mid-November, the cynic in me is thinking that the DCC street lighting tea m are aware of our serious concerns and do not have the answers to satisfy us.

We need that meeting ASAP to discuss our valid apprehensions – it is essential for the residents of Cowick, and vital as PNSL is rolled-out across the rest of the city.

I await your response with interest


Cowick Part-Night Street Lighting | Crossing the boundaries

As part-night street lighting starts to roll out across the city, local councillors are trying to taka a proactive approach to help Devon County County introduce the scheme in a safe and co-ordinated way

The West Exe team of Labour councillors are doing their best to let residents know when PNSL will start in their street.

That aim is quite easy to achieve in the middle of wards…but is proving a little difficult in the streets that straddle ward boundaries.

Take the case of Church Path Lane – most of the length of this street is in St Thomas ward, but along  the stretch from Cowick Lane to Larch Road the right hand side is in Alphinton.

When I questioned Devon what would happen here, I was told that the lights here would join the PNSL scheme when St Thomas lights were switched off from 01 May 2014.

As a result, I assumed that any road straddling 2 wards with different start dates for PNSL, DCC would always take the later date, But that’s not so!

So, for Isleworth Road which forms the boundary between the wards of Cowick and Exeter, lights would start to be switched off when the scheme started in Exwick at the beginning of May.

However, it appears that Isleworth Road is already having its street lights switched off between 00:30 and 05:30, meaning that my Labour colleagues are been contacted about the dark streets.

When I asked about this, I was was told be Devon CC that:

“…in the case of Church Path Road my ward plan shows all three lights within the St Thomas ward. I am not going into this sort of detail at every boundary road, just taking the view what looks practical and what lies predominantly in one ward or other.
“I have not interpreted this in the same way as you have and future switch-offs will be conducted in a similar way.”

With that response, it seems DCC are looking to add confusion along the boundary streets of all wards across the city.

Exeter part-night lighting public meetings and exhibitions

Views sought on part-night lighting plans for Exeter

Residents in Exeter are being invited to have their say on proposals for part-night street lighting in residential areas of the city through a series of public events and online consultation.

As part of the County Council’s on-going programme to reduce carbon emissions and energy costs, street lights in some residential areas of the city could be switched off overnight, between about 12:30am and 5:30am, before coming on again, until dawn. However, lighting on main roads (A and B roads), areas of high night-time activity and walking home routes will remain lit all night.

Devon County Council has been gathering the views of local county councillors, Exeter city councillors and the Police in order to help shape plans, and now want to hear what the whole community think.

The consultation will run for a six week period from Monday 23 September until Sunday 3 November, and includes public meetings and exhibitions where residents can find out about the background and reasoning behind the part-night lighting initiative, and discuss any concerns they may have.

The public meetings will enable local people to hear about the proposals and speak directly to officers. These will be held between 5pm and 8pm on:

3 October, at Methodist Hall, Burnthouse Lane, Exeter, EX2 6NG (across road from Wonford Community Centre).

8 October, at Whipton Community Hall. Pinhoe Road, Exeter, EX4 8AD.

14 October, at Stoke Hill Junior School. Stoke Hill, Exeter. EX4 7DP

16 October, at St Thomas Community Centre – Church Road, Exeter, EX2 9AX

Public exhibitions will also be held, enabling residents to see the proposals and provide feedback.  These will be held between 23 September and 3 November, at:

Exwick Community Centre. Kinnerton Way, Exeter, EX4 2PR, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 10am to 12pm; on Tuesdays from 7pm to 9pm; and on Thursdays from 5pm to 8:30pm (tbc)

Heavitree Social Club. Wingfield Park, 2 East Wonford Hill, Exeter, EX1 3BS, from 29 September to 1 October only, from 5pm until closing time.

Isca Centre. Summer Lane, Exeter, EX4 8NT.

Central Library. Castle Street, Exeter, EX4 3PQ.

Topsham Library. Nelson Close, Topsham, Exeter, EX3 0DX.

County Hall, Topsham Road, Exeter. EX2 4QD.

Residents can also submit their views online, via a dedicated website about the part-night streetlight scheme at www.devon.gov.uk/streetlighting

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said:

“This consultation is an important opportunity for people to have their say, and tell us their views.

“There has been lots of interest in these proposals, and naturally people have a lot of questions, so I would encourage residents to make every effort to come along to one of the public meetings or exhibitions taking place across the city and get involved in the process by providing us with your feedback. We particularly want to hear from people who think that they could be negatively impacted by the proposals to understand what measures may need to be put in place to address any concerns.

“There is also the option to find out more and submit comments and suggestions online through our dedicated part-night lighting website, which is great news for those who might not be able to make it to one of the events.

“This scheme is progressing well in other parts of Devon, and we have made excellent savings in terms of cost and carbon emissions. We are keen to achieve the same results in Exeter, but we appreciate that plans for the city need careful consideration.

“For example, busy areas of the city centre and main roads will remain lit all night and we are also aiming to develop a network of busy “walking home routes” which will remain lit all night.

“We have worked hard to engage with key stakeholders such as local councillors, Police and the Students’ Guild, at the earliest possible opportunity while plans were being drawn up, and their views have given us a solid starting point on which to consult further, so that we can produce a scheme in which we will all have been able to play a part.”

Since January 2010, over 35,000 streetlights across Devon have been converted to part night lighting. This has already saved around 4,000 tonnes of CO2 and approximately £1.2 million from the Council’s electricity bill. Part night lighting is part of a wider package of carbon saving measures, which also includes night dimming and the use of low energy equipment and LED technology where appropriate.

The County Council will be investing in an advanced lighting system in Exeter to remotely control key areas of street lighting in the city. This system would allow much more flexibility in the operation of street lights by providing direct control of every light connected to the system.

Devon County Council is responsible for nearly 77,000 street lights, costing £2.2million in electricity and producing nearly 20,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. That accounts for around 30% of the County Council’s annual emissions of almost 62,000 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of the total annual energy use of 7,300 average Devon homes, or a town about the size of Honiton in East Devon.