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.

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

Analysing The AA data on

A last some data about part-night street lighting is been made available! This is something I’ve been asking, not calling, for for months, but as ever with statistics, the figures must be read CAUTION.

A recent  Express & Echo carried an article about PNSL- Turning off Exeter’s street lights risks lives, The AA warn [10 April 2014].

Not unsurprisingly, there have been Cowick residents who have made reference to this article.

I’ve pointed out to them that actually the data quoted in the article doesn’t reflect the situation in Cowick:

The AA said its research showed that night-time accidents in bad weather on well-lit 30mph urban roads had been slashed by 15.6per cent over the past five years. By contrast, where street lights have been switched off or are not present, the fall was just 2per cent.

The street lights have been turned off in all the residential streets in Cowick – each and every one of them is in a 20 mph zone.

Cowick has three 30 mph roads – B3231 (Dunsford Road out as far as Pocombe Bridge, Buddle Lane and Cowick Lane It was Devon County Council’s original intention only to leave the B3213 (being a classified road) lit throughout the night. Due to the campaigning work of Cllr Heather Morris and myself, the two 30 mph roads now remain lit during the  hours of part-night street lighting,

So, to go back to The AA’s data – all Cowick’s 30 mph road ARE well-lit urban roads – the ooutcome should be that incidents in 30 mph speed limits give similar outcomes to the AA survey.

My first reading of the The AA data is that correct implementation of robust impact and risk assessments have resulted in roads with high casuallty and incident rates remain lit. And that is what DCC has done in Cowick.

However, given that the rest of Cowick undergoing PNSL is in 20 mph zones, I wonder if either The AA or DCC have any figures for eslehwere in the county about number of incidents recorded in 20 mph zones before and after the introduction of PNSL?

Is their evidence reflected in data from where PNSL has been rolled out around the rest of the county? Or are there are concrete facts that you can give me to refute their conclusions

I want to be able to reassure those residents with such concerns about PNSL that we will not see an increase in road traffic collisions in Cowick’s residential streets.

And even though this is the case in Cowick, the implementation of PNSL across the rest of the city might mean that 30 mph roads will see their street lights being switched off.

My thoughts as part of Exeter Part Night Street Lighting consultation

As I have long stated, I welcome the Exeter Part Night Street Lighting initiative as a way to achieve a considerable reduction in Devon County Council’s carbon footprint, and that the resulting financial savings can help preserve other essential services.

BUT  that support is conditional –  only if PNSL be delivered without affecting the safety of residents.

I would like to make the following general points:

  1. introduction should start in the New Year – the run-up to Christmas period is a bad idea
  2. PNSL should be rolled out in a phased way – i understand that this is the plan due to the timetable of installing control mechanism to street lamps
  3. I welcome your consideration of LED equipment in areas where street lighting will remain on through the night – this promotes CARBON reduction as well as financial savings
  4. I question the fact that street lighting will remain on in industrial areas – gives the impression that you value property and commerce above public safety

I would hope that the following areas have been subject to specific risk assessments, and if considered necessary, are exempted from PNSL plans:

  1. remote or enclosed alleyways, footpaths linking residential streets especially where one end links to a street that is lit all night
  2. formal pedestrian crossings, subways
  3. conflict sites, e.g roundabouts, lit by columns greater than 6m high (I know that some County Councils include carriageway islands, chicanes and speed-humps in this list – but in my opinion car headlights should suffice in these cases)
  4. roads with high traffic flow
  5. near cash machines
  6. areas with sheltered housing

In particular to my ward of Cowick I would like you to consider the following:

  1. I am surprised that Buddle Lane isn’t considered a walking route in the same way as Cowick Lane – it is also a road with high traffic flow and high vehicle speeds
  2. The alleyway from Buddle Lane to Merrivale Road (alongside St Philips Court) is all night street lighting

In the adjacent ward of St Thomas, can I suggest:

  1. Okehampton Road/Street as a walking route

As always, I would welcome any information or links that prove that the fear of increased crime is unfounded and that crime doesn’t actually rise as and when part-night street lighting is introduced.

What will be the process of considering if an area needs to revert to all-night street lighting?

I look forward to the journey in helping DCC in delivering dark skies to Exeter

Public consultation on part-night street lighting West of the Exe

I and all the other Labour councillors West of the Exe have express our concerns over Devon County Council’s plans for the introduction of part-night street lighting – switching off of street lights between the hours of 00:30 and 05:30.

So much so that we’ve lobbied DCC to undertake a public consultation exercise.

But much to my displeasure, DCC have only arranged one meeting within the 4 wards of Alphington, Cowick, Exwick and St Thomas, and done very little in the way of publicising the event.

I’ve voice my concerns to DCC and here’s their response:

At a meeting with the County Members a couple of months ago it was agreed that only 5 public meetings would take place. This was because there were reservations about the effectiveness of such meetings and the level of interest that there would be. It was agreed that maps of all wards would be available at each meeting so that anyone from within Exeter could attend any of the meetings to discuss issues in their ward. Following concerns that there was no meeting in the SW of the City a further meeting was added at the 100 Club.

In advance of the consultation DCC issued press releases to promote the consultation. This resulted in a number of articles in the local press as well as radio and television coverage.

We have now had 5 of the 6 meetings and as anticipated interest has been very limited – only one member of the public attended the last meeting.

In regard to the Baptist Church I am not sure whether it was contacted – however as sufficient meetings were arranged as agreed it may not have been. In view of the attendance at the other meetings there would be little value in adding any further meetings.

This phase of the consultation runs until 3 Nov and people can still provide feedback online.

We anticipate that there will be greater interest once the part night lighting starts being implemented therefore we will keep the website open for further feedback of any issues.

So please make YOUR voice heard by other methods!

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.

Police response to DCC’s part-night street lighting proposals

Local councillors in Exeter have just been made aware of this 2011 report from Devon & Cornwall Police on DCC’s plans to reduce street lighting in Exeter.

Street Lighting – Exeter
Police Response to Devon County Council Plans to Reduce Street Lighting in Exeter

Devon County Council is entering the second year of a three to five year programme to introduce part night lighting in residential areas across Devon. Main A and B roads will remain lit and the city centre areas will be subject to more detailed consideration. There are exception criteria for the County Councils part-night lighting policy to which the police will respond.

Extensive research into crime and the effects of lighting on the fear of crime is not possible due to the limited amount of time given to respond to the proposals, however, it has been possible to look at peak times for offending throughout the city area.

All figures are historic and have been gathered when street lights have been switched on as there has not been a time when Exeter has experienced part night lighting. It is therefore not possible to say if offences will increase or decrease after a proposed switch off of street lights.

Devon and Cornwall Area

 It is understood that Exeter will be the first city to undergo part night lighting so there is no evidence from other areas to show that crime increases or decreases when lights are switched off.

The Police have already been involved in the part night lighting policy in Cornwall and have worked with the council to reach an agreement where the police can request the street lights are turned back on in the event of an incident. The following link has further information:

http://www.thisiswesternmorningnews.co.uk/news/Police-powers-control-street-lights/article-1422557-detail/article.html

Observations

The ability of the Police to respond to offences, conduct area searches, identify victims, offenders and crime scenes will be hindered if there is no street lighting to assist.

The use of natural and informal surveillance is a recognised and approved crime reduction principle, relying on members of the public to notice offences and report what they have seen to the authorities. Poor street lighting may in fact limit this natural surveillance resulting in inaccurate identification. Removing street lighting all together will virtually cease all natural surveillance during the hours of darkness where private light sources are not available.

An analysis of research carried out into the effects of lighting on crime are varied with some reporting reductions in crime when lighting is reduced and others the exact opposite. An aspect which is more difficult to analyse is the effect on the fear of crime which can be as damaging to a person’s quality of life as crime itself. A reduction in street lighting may result in more residents using their vehicles as they are too afraid to use unlit streets ultimately resulting in an increase in CO2 emissions.

Home Office Research

Home Office Research Study 251 (August 2002):
“There are two main theories of why improved street lighting may cause a reduction in crime. The first suggests that improved lighting leads to increased surveillance of potential offenders (both by improving visibility and by increasing the number of people on the street) and hence to the deterrence of potential offenders.

The second suggests that improved lighting signals increased community investment in the area and that the area is improving, leading to increased community pride, community cohesiveness and informal social control. The first theory predicts decreases in crime especially during the hours of darkness, while the second theory predicts decreases in crime during both day time and night time.

The report concluded that improved street lighting should be included as one element of a situational crime reduction programme. It is an inclusive intervention benefiting the whole of a neighbourhood and leads to an increase in perceived public safety. Improved street lighting is associated with greater use of public space and neighbourhood streets by law abiding citizens. Especially if well targeted to a high crime area, improved street lighting can be a feasible, inexpensive and effective method of reducing crime.”

Licensed Premises

A breakdown of licensing times shows that the top ten busiest licensed premises in Exeter have licensing times outside of the planned switch off times. These licensing times have been issued by Exeter City Council.

Concern for the safety of pub and club users is paramount especially as many will be leaving the premises intoxicated making them more vulnerable. The peak times for robbery, violence and sexual assault occur during the early hours of the morning.

The following was noted:

  • On Friday and Saturday nights the majority of the licensed premises assessed can remain open until 0230 with over half (6) having a license until after 0300 hours.
  • This would suggest that switching the lights off at 0030 will be too early especially at the weekend when the nightlife in the city centre is generally busier. Although lights will be left on within the city centre there is concern for those people travelling home, especially those who choose to walk.
  • For the duration of the whole week over half the premises studied have licenses until after 0100.

It is proposed that any lighting switch off is not considered prior to 0200 hours in the residential streets closest to the city centre and in particular those areas with higher student numbers.

The switching off of street lamps outside of the city centre will have a detrimental effect on the perceived safety of vulnerable groups of people walking home from a night out. It is feared that Devon County Council’s plans will put increasingly high numbers of people at risk.

Walk Home Routes 

The main crime types of concern are those associated with persons walking home from the licensed premises in the city centre to their homes on the outskirts of the city; namely sexual offences, violence and robbery. Crime data shows that the top wards affected are, City Centre and St Davids, Newtown and St Leonards, Priory, St James and Heavitree.

Crime data outside of the city centre beat code is relatively even making it difficult to extract beat locations with an increased crime problem. It is therefore suggested that all beat locations will have recognised walk-home routes leading to and from the city centre locations and main transport hubs.

These walk home routes should be adopted as part of a transport plan by Devon County Council. In addition to being lit through the hours of darkness they should also be maintained to incorporate a series of crime reduction measures to reduce crime occurring. Consultation with the Police Architectural and Crime Prevention Officers should be sought.

Devon County Council’s transport plan shows a commitment to increasing the use of walking as an alternative mode of transport. It is possible that the increase in fear of crime will prevent persons from walking and car usage will increase. This will be especially relevant during the hours of darkness for commuters, not just the late night economy.

Walking –

Over 18% of people walk to work in Exeter which is considerably higher than the national average of just over 10%. Over 50% of children walk to school. It is important to ensure that the numbers are not only maintained but also increased atthe expense of car passengers and in this respect pedestrian safety on the highwayand encouragement through school and employer travel plans are crucial.

Population and Crime

The following population figures have been gathered from the census information, with crime information collected from the Devon and Cornwall Police My Neighbourhood section on the website as well as the research carried out into crime patterns over the past three years.

The ward of St Thomas and Cowick has the highest population amongst the Exeter sectors (11 900). Underage drinking continues to be a problem within the St Thomas Pleasure Ground and Cowick Barton Playing fields and a Section 30 Dispersal Order is in place to help control this problem. Crime in the area is average.

Heavitree and Polsloe (11600) also have a high population and suffers with above average vehicle crime. Newtown and St Leonards (9700) share an above average vehicle crime problem with Heavitree. This could be due to the style of home in these locations where off road or garage parking is limited with the majority of vehicles being parked on the streets. This leaves them more vulnerable to theft and criminal damage especially if cars are parked on roads used as routes home from the city centre.

Duryard and Pennsylvania (10300) have low levels of crime with a high population. Pennsylvania Road is considered a key route home from the city centre for a large number of students.

Priory with an approximate population of 9400 has a higher risk of burglary. This is the highest of all the wards. The policing area of Wonford is currently subject of a Section 30 Dispersal Order to help reduce incidents of anti social behaviour until 16 January 2011. Problems seem to escalate in the area around Halloween and Bonfire Night and retaining the street lighting during this period would be of great assistance to the police and other organisations in their attempts to reduce anti social behaviour thereby improving the quality of life for local residents.

Crime in Exwick (9000), Alphington (8500), Whipton Barton (7900), Pinhoe (6100), Mincinglake (5700), Countess Wear and Topsham (5 000) is average.

St James ward has a large student population and issues surrounding student behaviour have been raised through the PACT (Partners and Communities Together) meetings by local residents. Late night anti social behaviour is of concern in Well Street, Oxford Road, St James Road, South View Terrace and Powderham Crescent where criminal damage and noise have been reported between the hours of 2200-0500. In addition to this the issue of street drinkers has been raised as a cause for concern and an increase in the fear of crime in York Road, Well Street and Queens Crescent. These areas may be prime candidates to retain current street lighting levels due to reported problems. 

St Loyes and St Davids have similar population levels (4 800). While crime is average in St Loyes there is an above average occurrence of vehicle crime. This issue has been raised as a PACT priority across Broadfields with problems surrounding overnight vehicle crime and burglary. Anti social behaviour, rowdiness and drunken behaviour have been raised as a problem in Woodwater Lane as this is used as a through road overnight.  St Davids experiences above average levels of burglary and anti social behaviour.

Although it is difficult to prove that a reduction in lighting will increase crime as the above problems have all occurred when street lighting has been left on throughout the night, it is perfectly understandable in areas where crime is a problem that the fear of crime is raised.

Marsh Barton and Sowton Industrial Estates

Commercial sections of the city should be made an exception to the part night lighting policy. Many of the businesses have invested time and money into security to protect their assets, relying on adequate lighting to increase surveillance, including capturing offenders on CCTV.

Marsh Barton has over 500 businesses ranging from vehicle showrooms to builders merchants, plant and tool hire to retail outlets. These types of business are desirable for burglars due to the value of the goods.

Acquisitive crime has been raised as a problem on Sowton Industrial Estate through the PACT process. Issues have included overnight thefts of diesel, metal and plant. Targeted operations have been conducted to reduce crime rates

Recommendations

  • Walk home routes from the city centre are identified, promoted and left lit. These should be identified in conjunction with the local policing teams and Exeter University and promoted by Devon County Council.
  • Areas of high crime where police operations and activities are undertaken to reduce crime should remain lit and advice sought from the local policing team. This would include those areas subject to Section 30 Dispersal Orders.
  • Street lighting around the city centre to remain on until 0200 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Any areas where fear of crime is highlighted through the PACT process should be left lit.
  • Clearer information is required regarding how the lights are going to be switched off – will they simply go out, leaving people in pools of darkness or will there be a gradual dimming? The creation of pools of light followed by dark shadows is contrary to all crime reduction advice. The evenness of light distribution is as important as the level of illumination (Secured by Design New Homes 2010).
  • Policy to be agreed where the street lights can be turned on in the event of a serious incident.
  • If evidence suggests that crime increases following the implementation of the part night lighting, street lighting is returned.

I have had a comment from Inspector Pezzani with regard to this report:
The simple answer is we do not have sufficient data to make a comprehensive assessment.  It would seem that the current thought is that the darkness increases the fear of crime, but does not seem to have an effect on the actual statistics.  

“Anti-Social Behaviour may well be affected with youngsters less likely to hang around an area with little lighting.  However, this does not prevent people fearing the effects.

“Overall I think the report’s conclusions stand true.  It would seem logical to me to closely monitor the new system, reviewing the effects in a set period factoring in winter/summer variations.  Any changes to criminal behaviour can be assessed and responded to accordingly.