Some thoughts on Part Night Street Lighting ahead of switch-off on 01/04/14

Over the past few years, I’ve spoken to many people – and received e-mails from others – about the introduction of part-night street lighting in Exeter, so much so that I’ve put together some thoughts

Many thanks for your comments on the plan to introduce part-night street lighting [PNSL]  throughout Exeter over the coming months.

I have taken a huge interest in this matter and have blogged on the subject.

The journey to the introduction of PNSL in Exeter has been a long and hard road – let me try and summarise some of that journey ( trying searching the Express and Echo website for some of the background).

It is the upper-tier local authority Devon County Council (rather than Exeter City Council) that is responsible for street-lighting across the city. However they have no statutory duty to have them on throughout the night – they only have a specific duty to maintain those street lights that they do provide.

In 2006 DCC embarked on a carbon-reduction programme to reduce carbon footprint and save costs.

Currently DCC is repsonsible for over 72,00 street lights countywide (including 12,000 in Exeter), costing an estimated £3.4m in electricity (in 2011) and producing nearly 20,000 tonnes of CO2  every year.This is about 30% of DCC’s annual emissions of almost 62,000 tonnes – the equivalent of the total annual enegry use ofg 7,3000 Devon homes or a town about the size of Honiton.

With the combined pressures of rising energy prices and the need to reduce emissions to prevent dangerous climate change, DCC  has decided that action is required to reduce energy consumption in street lighting.

A number of options have were assessed, and it was decided that  the most cost-effective solution is to follow the lead of the Highway Agency and turn off non-essential street lighting from 12:30am to 5:30am.

It is estimated that this could save up to 4,000 tonnes of CO2  and reduce the present energy bill by £450,000. These emissions savings would go a long way to meet both national and local emissions reduction targets.

DCC have come up with a PNSL policy which can be found at:


The aim of this Policy revision is to ensure that the following objectives are met:

  •  Savings in energy consumption are actively pursued to reduce carbon emissions and the effect of rising energy costs
  •  That the night-time safety of road users and members of the community is considered at all times.
  •  That street lighting assists in the reduction of crime and fear of crime.
  •   That good street lighting design minimises the effect on the environment whilst enhancing the night-time ambience
  •  To provide public lighting that is cost effective, taking into account energy conservation and sustainability.
  •  To identify criteria for the provision of street lighting and for duration and timing of lighting operation.
  •  Existing part night lighting areas will not be changed to all night lighting except where there is evidence of night time crime occurring to no street lighting
  •  Existing all night lighting will be maintained on designated A and B roads and other routes as agreed from time to time with local police and parish and town councils. Where appropriate, reduced lighting using dimming technology will be considered, together with part-night operation of certain routes subject to a risk- management approach.

To implement the policy DCC have come up with 2 options for street lighting across the county, depending on the location,:

  • Part-night lighting in residential areas. Meaning that the hours that streetlights are on will be between dusk and 12:30am and again from 5:30am until dawn. Exceptions will apply where there are overriding safety issues.
  • All night and late night dimming lighting on main roads and areas of high night-time activity, such as town centres. Street lights will remain lit all night, but consideration will be given to dimming lighting where possible.

DCC have been rolling out PNSL across the county since and first tried to introduce PNSL for Exeter in 2010.

In April 2012, DCC Cabinet approved a £1.7m investment in a new Street Lighting Monitoring System which would allow for much more flexibility in the operation of PNSL by providing direct control of every light connected to the system.

DCC wanted to press ahead with introducing the PNSL scheme across Exeter last autumn, but direct intervention by Exeter Labour councillors   – both City and Country – meant there was a series of consultation events and presentations across the city.

We tried to get them to look at the option of replacing the current sodium lamps with LED lamps but they were not prepared to consider this.
Another concern we raised with the fear of increased crime due to PNSL. We were told that in areas of Devon where PNSL has been introduced, there have been some isolated increases of crime, but the feared increases have not materialised and in some instances the police have reported that crime rates have fallen. However, police will have access to the control equipment to switch the street lights back on if necessary, and DCC have told us that they will consider switching the lights back on if crime does increase.

The initial plans for Cowick meant that the only major A and B roads that would remain lit  – and the only major road in the ward is the B3121 Pocombe Hill/Dunsford Road running Pocombe Bridge to the First and Last junction at Cowick Street.

The other concession that the Labour cllrs got was that the plans for PNSL would be rolled out in a phased way across the city ward by ward over a period of 12 months or so.

The Labour councillors for Cowick thought that this wasn’t good enough – and pressed for Cowick Lane and Buddle Lane to be added to that list of “major roads”. It was also agreed that the lane running from Buddle Lane to Merrivale (alongside the entrance to Bowhill School and St Philips Court) would remain lit as a “walking route”.

DCC will continue to consider the effects of PNSL and will continue to consult until 6 month after the final areas are converted (the last wards are expected to be on PNSL by March 2015).

Members of the public can make comments on the PNSL scheme to DCC on the normal customer services phone number 0845 155 1004, but residents can only use the form on DCC’s dedicated website for Exeter PNSL

They can also e-mail:

or write in to:

Street Lighting, Devon County Council, Matford Lane offices, County Hall, Topsham Road, EXETER EX2 4QW.

I suggest that any comments on PNSL in Exeter are directed to DCC, but can I suggest that you keep your local (ECC and DCC) councillors informed on what you’ve said to Devon County Council

I have asked DCC to update their “dedicated” website on PNSL to take account of the new routes that will remain lit – and the current proposed schedule (DCC are reluctant on this point “as they wish to learn from the PNSL roll-out in Alphington and Cowick)

Like you, I am still waiting to see the comments on the consultation posted on the site – they were promised for the end of February!

I have been told that DCC plan to issue a media release in the next day or two to annouce the commencement of Exeter PNSL – I await this with interest

I am looking  forward to seeing the stars over Exeter over the coming months and I hope that the fear of crime is not realised by an increase in actual crime. By introducing PNSL, DCC will hope to save a significant amount of money – enabling them to protect other essential services.

But please be advised, I and my Cowick colleagues will continue to monitor how the PNSL policy affects residents in the ward.

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.

What do our local police teams know about part-night street lighting?

Last night local councillors had one of their quarterly liaison meetings with the Neighbourhood Policing Teams of Devon & Cornwall Police –  I asked for the issue of PNSL to be place on the agenda

Insp Tanya Youngs confirmed what we had heard in the monthly reported updates we’re receiving form our neighbourhoold policing teams – namely, that there us no reported increase. She also went on to say that in additon as far as she could see there was no policing issues connected with PNSL at the moment.

I went on to ask if the NPT knew the protocol for getting lights turned on in the event of an emergency/incident.

At first, someone around the table (cant remember who) suggested that they could be left off within a couple of days if the incident was a long-term one – that police office had done just that in outlying areas of Devon.

But all seemed to be unaware of the immediate switch-on facility that was used as a safety selling point at the initial members’ briefing in June 2013 and in subsequent discussions, conversations and correspondence.

I suppose that in normal circumstances this wouldn’t be surprising – its just the neighbourhood team’s Insp, Sgts and maybe PCs that attend this meeting.

But last night we were fortunate to be joined by senior officers of the Local Policing Area (LPA) – Ch Insp Matt Lawler (Ch Insp for Exeter, East and West Devon) and Supt Keith Perkin (Police lead for LPA)

Neither of these were aware of this facility being offered by DCC as part of the £1.7m computer-controlled Central Management System, either.

So Devon County Council, why are senior police officers not aware of the very safety features that helped convince me that PNSL could be a viable policy?

Although Exeter is seeing no increase of crime, other counties are seeing significant increases.

As a result of a 62% increase in crime, Kent County Council is to return every residential area to all-night lighting by calling a halt to its policy of part-night street lighting and converting its enitre stock of 120,000 street lamps to LED at a cost of £40m.

Massive victory for Express readers as council decide to turn street lights back on [Dover Express, 02 February 2015]

Part-Night Street Lighting…what happens elsewhere?

I have been reviewing Devon County Council’s policy over Part-Night Street Lighting [PNSL] and comparing it with other local authorities.
Last month I was reminded of the criteria DCC use for PNSL, when they gave reasons why the lights weren’t going to left on for Christmas’ Eve and New Year\s Eve.
  • All main routes in the City,
  • A network of walking home routes developed through the consultation process,
  • Areas of high night time activity, like the city centre,
  • Areas under public Order CCTV surveillance,
  • Other lights agreed based on evidence and police support.
So what happens elsewhere?
Appendix 1 gives some good examples of exemptions and perhaps DCC could do with looking at some of them!
– areas where speed limit is 30mph 
This is probably in place – certainly is in Cowick, but only after lobbying by Heather and myself. Could be worth checking other wards?
– areas with 24 hr operational emergency services sites including hospitals
Again, lobbying by Cllr Andy Hannan has covered this for RD&E, but is there anywhere that isn’t covered?
– where there are potential hazards on Highway (traffic islands, etc)
certainly NOT in Cowick
– remote footpaths and alleys linking residential streets
We have this for the one linking Buddle. Lane and Merrivale Road (after lobbying) but no other in Cowick. Other wards?
– areas with sheltered housing and other residencies accommodating vulnerable hospitals
N/A in Cowick, but what about elsewhere?
– Pedestrian crossings and subways 
not sure how DCC have implemented this around the city
I see that Wokingham BC have added bus stops to their list of exemptions – I’m dubious about that one as PNSL happens when buses aren’t running!
In recent months, DCC has gone quite quiet on the actual roll out of PNSL throughout rest of city – I wonder how things are progressing elsewhere in Exeter?

STORIFY INDEX | Part-Night Street Lighting

12/06/13 | Part Night Street Lighting

Is Devon County Council taking a dim view of Exeter with its *consultation* on Part Night Street Lighting?

14/06/13 | Members’ Briefing on #ExeterPNSL

16/06/13 | More on #ExeterPNSL

17/02/14 | #ExeterPNSL starts on April Fools Day

16/08/14 | #TorbayPNSL or not?

12/11/14 | Bowhay Lane #Cowick

18/11/14 |#ExeterPNSL Part 3

Part night street lighting roll-out continues in Duryard and Pennsylvannia

29/11/14 | #ExeterPNSL

11/12/14 | #CowickPNSL

11/12/14 | #DCCmeeting – #PNSL in #Exeter

22/12/14 | Part-night Street Lighting across the country

75% of councils in England are having to dim or switch off streetlights at night

03/01/14 | #ExeterPNSL

10/07/15 | #ExeterPNSL moves on to #Priory and #StLeonards

DCC response to Ben Bradshaw’s letter about part-night street lighting

Dear Mr Bradshaw

Part Night Lighting, Exeter

Thank you for your letter of 11 November 2014 regarding your constituent’s concerns about the operation of street lights in Exeter.

As part of the County Council’s to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption for street lights in Exeter, new switching controls are being installed that enable the street lights to be dimmed, or switched off, for part of the night. The lights can be controlled remotely from a computer, providing great flexibility to apply any changes quickly and easily.

The switching controls with the use of mobile phone type communication technology, using local area controllers, sub-controllers, and individual light controllers.

When the new equipment is first installed, the lights operate during the day until the area communication network has become established; this can take a day or two. These units have already been installed in Alphington, Cowick, Duryard, Exwick, St Davids, St James,  and St Thomas, with the intention being to complete the remaining 11 wards  by September 2015.

The operating system being used is computer based, but relies on good radio communications and in the main this has been successful, although there have been issues with areas or poor communication. The County Council has been working closely with the manufacturer to resolve these matters as quickly as possible.

Part-night operation, where the lights switch off between 00:30 and 05:30, began in the city in April of this year and there has not been any feedback from the police that issues of crime and personal safety have risen as a result,which reflects the outcome of part-night lighting implemented across Devon since 2009.

Part-night operations of street lights across Devon are under continual review, and as and when the police or any local council request that  lighting is restored to all-night operation for crime or safety-related concerns, the County Council will consider carrying out the necessary changes.

A review meeting is currently being arranged with local councillors and police to discuss the effect of the policy in the first 4 wards to have part-night lighting in Exeter, namely Alphington, Cowick, Exwick, and St Thomas.

Questions about Cowick Part-Night Street Lighting asked at DCC Full Council Meeting

At Devon County Council’s Full Council meeting on 11/12/14 , Cllr Roy Hill [LAB, Alphington/Cowick] asked a number of questions about part-night street lighting in Exeter.


Re: Streetlighting on 24th and 31st December 2014

Would Councillor Hughes consider keeping on those street lights on 24th and 31st December which have been switched off as part of the night time part street lighting?


The remote monitoring system that we invested in for Exeter provides for the option to switch lights back on without having to visit each individual lighting column. This is not the case in other areas of Devon where the remote monitoring system does not operate. However, the operation of part-night lighting was developed and agreed through a process of public consultation and Member input. This was to ensure that street lights that need to remain on all night are not converted to part night operation and remain lit all night, for example in areas of high night time activity, on main roads and on walking home routes. So whilst I would consider lights remaining lit on the 24th and 31st December in Exeter, I would need to understand why this is any better than the scheme that has been the subject of public consultation and Member agreement.


Re: Streetlighting and Road and Pavement Works

Would Councillor Hughes be able to ensure liaison between the Council and other bodies where road and pavement works are underway, so that night lighting is kept on at the site for safety reasons?


Procedures will be put in place to ensure that where necessary and as far as possible street lights are on at night in the vicinity of roadworks.


Re: Streetlighting and Adverse Weather

Could Councillor Hughes say whether plans are in place to switch street lights back on in adverse weather conditions such as snow?


Part night lighting only operates in residential area. Main roads and agreed walking home route in communities remain lit all night. Where lights operate on a part-night basis, they are only switched off between about 12:30 and 05:30 when pedestrian and traffic flows are low. So, no plans are in place to switch lights to all night operation when it snows as there is no evidence that this will provide any benefit to the travelling public. However, in exceptional circumstances like the floods that occurred in Braunton in recent years, if we were able to switch to all night lighting to help the community deal with a major incident, we would liaise with emergency services and make the necessary change.


Re: Streetlighting and Safety Issues

What are the criteria for switching street lights back on in the event of safety issues being identified by residents (e.g. those who go to work before 5.30am) in part night time street lighting areas?


We have been clear in our communications on the areas affected by part night lighting, the hours of operation. We have suggested that if people plan their journey between about 12:30 and 05:30 in an area that has street lighting that operates on a part-night basis it would be sensible for them to carry a torch. This is what happens in communities or roads that do not have street lights installed. However, we have agreed to review part-night lighting if a safety issue is raised and the police support the view that switching lighting back to all night light would be beneficial. The criteria we use is the weight of evidence of a benefit which is provided by the police.


More problems with Cowick Part-Night Street Lighting

The Cowick team of Labour councillors have been picking up many adverse comments about street lights within the ward – and the problems seem to spread across the whole of the West of the Exe.

Since these problems are not being seen across the rest of the city, Cllrs Paul Bull, Heather Morris and Roy Hill think that these instances are related to the systems being used to control the part-night street lighting policy which plunges Cowick, Exwick, Alphington and St Thoma  into pitch darkness between the hours of 00:30 and 05:30.

Paul (@CllrPaul4Cowick) and Heather (@CllrMorris) use Twitter and Facebook (Cowick Councillors Homepage: to keep in contact with local residents.

This week their social media feeds have been full on contacting telling them about street lights being on during daylight hours.

And these comments were echoed over the weekend, as the Cowick team were out speaking to local residents on the doorstep

“They were angry that Devon County Council failed to communicate the PNSL policy was has implemented on 1st April,” Heather commented.

“But they now seem full of despair as money is burned with lights being on during the day.”

Roy Hill confirmed that this problem has been raised in the past.

“We highlighted this over the summer and we were told that this was a safety measure – the lights come on when the area controllers lost contact with the individual street lights. Could it be that the area wasn’t properly mapped and enought area controllers supplied and installed? We need this problemto be addressed as a matter of urgency”

But there is another pronblem. In some street, the lights aren’t coming back on until 6am or even later.

“I’ve been in contact with the street lighting team at Devon County Council” said Paul Bull.

“They tell me there are both time-activated and light-activated phases involved in the switch-on at 05:30.

“Some confusion occurred as to what was time-activated and what was light-activated in the dimming and part-night operations of the street lights.

“During this process, the 05.30 light-activated switch-on phase was deleted and this just left a 06.00 dimming phase and light-activated switch-off later in the morning”

According to Devon County Council, the necessary changes have now been made to restore the original part-night operation of the street lights.

However, if the lights still continue to come on at 6am or later, residents could contact DCC:
By phone: 0345 155 1015

By e-mail:

By post: Street Lighting, Devon County Council, Matford Lane Offices, County Hall, Topsham Road, EXETER EX2 4QW

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


E&E | On all day or off all night… call for end to Exeter street lighting ‘fiasco’

01 October 2014

On all day or off all night… call for end to Exeter street lighting ‘fiasco’

EXETER’S switch over to part-night lighting has been described as a “fiasco” by councillors who are calling for the scheme to be halted.

Devon County Council’s scheme to switch off street lights between midnight and 5.30am has been rolled out across the whole of West Exe, with the rest of the city set to follow. But some street lights have since been on all day, and some lights which should be on at night for safety reasons have remained off.

The lights are controlled by a £1.7m computer and the county council has admitted there have been ‘issues’ but says that these are being resolved.

Rob Hannaford, county councillor for St Thomas and Exwick said: “Over several months I have received complaints from angry residents about street lights being left on all the time. “Some of the worst areas are around Redhills, Buddle Lane, Farm Hill, Queens Road, Gloucester Road and Cowick Street. Most people were not on balance in favour of the switch-off, however now they are furious about the waste of money these faults are causing.

“It’s now a long-running shambles that’s become a fiasco, especially when it’s all about cuts to front-line services at County Hall.”

Cowick city councillor Paul Bull is calling for the programme to switch the rest of the city over to be halted until the problems are resolved.

Cllr Bull believes the problem has been caused because the county council has been ‘skimping’ and not enough control modules have been put in to allow signals to be picked up from the central computer.

He said: “My guess is that they are skimping, trying to save money but then the lights are staying on all the time. We need to make sure we have a secure and robust system before the rest of the city is changed over.”

City council leader Pete Edwards added: “They should put all the lights back on through the night until they get this problem sorted out. The system isn’t working in West Exe so how can they expect it to work in the rest of the city?”

Roy Hill, county councillor for Alphington and Cowick agreed, said: “All these problems should mean that the county council puts a complete halt to the switch off until they have worked with the manufacturers to iron them out. Also if the city’s topography is challenging for the new system why was this not investigated and trialled before the new kit was installed?

“We will be calling for a special meeting to discuss where we are with this as soon as possible.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “Each area controller uses radio waves to control a maximum of about 250 lights over a 1km radius, but communications can be affected by the local building landscape.

“Initial mapping provided by the suppliers has, in general, worked well for the six wards that have had the remote monitoring equipment installed.

“As this is new technology there are occasions where issues arise but adjustments are being made to achieve complete coverage. In this instance an additional branch is being installed in Okehampton Street; a number of lights will be assigned to it and the issue of day-burners should be resolved.

“A similar situation occurred in part of Exwick and an additional branch was installed on Exwick Road with positive results.”

The switch over in Duryard and Pennsylvania is more or less complete, St James’ has started and St David’s will start during October.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet member for Highway Management said: “There was consultation with the public, the Police and councillors when proposals for part night operation of street lighting were being put together. This enabled us to develop a balanced set of proposals with some busy areas, agreed walking home routes and the main through roads and junctions in Exeter remaining lit all night. We have always said that once installed, schemes could be reviewed with the Police based on feedback on any issues experienced.”