Guardian | In a new era of official nastiness, it’s suddenly a crime to be homeless



10 March 2016

In a new era of official nastiness, it’s suddenly a crime to be homeless


by John Harris

Instead of addressing the causes of homelessness, local authorities are using public space protection orders to displace, fine and punish the vulnerable.

Illustration of person sleeping on bench

 ‘All over the country, police and local councils are criminalising begging and rough sleeping, seemingly trying to push such mounting problems out of sight.’ Photograph: Nate Kitch

week ago, a case involving a homeless man called Ashley Hackett was thrown out of court in Brighton. He had been arrested by a plain-clothes police officer for asking a passer-by for 10p, an episode that triggered reports about Sussex police arresting 60 people on similar grounds in 2015 alone.

The story exploded in the pages of the Brighton Argus: local MP Caroline Lucas said she could not see “how criminalising desperate people for begging is helpful”; 30,000 people signed a petition decrying the policy responsible – and then, in the final denouement, prosecutors decided that the case was not in the public interest, and a district judge called time on the whole pathetic affair. In among the small print, there lurked truly Kafkaesque details, such as Hackett’s lawyer’s insistence that “he pleaded not guilty to begging because the offence says you’ve got to place yourself in that location to beg. He says he’s homeless and that’s where he lives.”

Unfortunately, the end of that case will probably have no effect on a monstrous shift in policy and official attitudes towards homeless people being rolled out around the country. As in-depth reporting in the Guardian this week has highlighted, rough-sleeping in England is up nearly a third year-on-year, and the figures have doubled since 2010: a plainly shameful fact that underlines the sense of a government locked into a grim re-enactment of the 1980s. Meanwhile, all over the country, police and local councils are criminalising begging and rough sleeping, seemingly trying to push such mounting problems out of sight.

Which brings us to a particularly horrible policy instrument known as public space protection orders (or PSPOs), brought in by the coalition government in 2014. As with New Labour’s antisocial behaviour orders, this new legal invention creates opportunities to criminalise hitherto non-criminal behaviour – but instead of Asbos’ focus on individuals, PSPOs are defined by particular areas.

The basic idea is simple enough. Designate a particular area, specify the behaviour you want to outlaw, and you’re off. In certain areas of Nottinghamshire, Bassetlaw’s Labour council has prohibited people under 16 “gathering in groups of three or more”; in Hillingdon, the Tories who run the borough have criminalised feeding pigeons in the park and, for young people in certain places, “gathering in groups of two or more persons unless going to or from a parked vehicle or waiting for a scheduled bus at a designated bus stop”. Obviously, those actions look comically draconian. But when PSPOs are applied to homeless people, the sense of punitive nastiness goes off the scale.

We are essentially talking about the policy equivalent of those spikes now affixed to modern buildings as a matter of course, in case anyone thinks of bedding down for the night. In Folkestone in Kent, a PSPO covers drinking, rough sleeping and begging; the latter is also a potential criminal act in Corby, Swindon and Oxford (where the council says it only applies to “aggressive” begging, though that includes simply asking for money near a cashpoint). In Wrexham, similar sanctions now apply to sleeping in a town centre park. Failure to comply entails a possible on-the-spot fine of £100 – this is for homeless people, let’s not forget – and, if the case goes to court, a penalty of up to £1,000. It is seemingly too early for cases to start colliding with the judicial system, but when they do, the waste of public money and chaotic fallout will speak for itself.

Nonetheless, the idea is catching on. Recent Freedom of Information requests by the Vice website discovered that at least 36 local councils in England and Wales “have introduced or are working on PSPOs which criminalise activities linked to homelessness”. In some places, there has been loud controversy about what is afoot: protests in Exeter, a U-turn in Newport, and another successful campaign in Hackney, east London, that last year forced the councilto back down.

But all too often there’s a sense of dull inevitability: in the absence of any real local or national scrutiny, councils do what they like, and no one really cares. Put another way: these days, if something happens in Corby, Swindon or Wrexham, can it really be said to have happened at all?

Moreover, as the Brighton case proves, the story runs much wider than PSPOs. Aside from London and Bristol, the city I visit most often is Manchester, where rough sleeping has exploded and, despite a more enlightened attitude to homeless people than you see in some other places, the city council and local landlords spent some of 2015 locked into an on-off game of injunctions, clearances, and ongoing bad feeling.

As a dry space long used by homeless people was suddenly cleared and fenced off – which is how it remains – and protest camps set up by homeless people spread across the city, the council won an injunction against anyone pitching a tent, which went as far as listing the items (sleeping bags, cardboard boxes) that were still permitted, and led to homeless people facing fines of up to £5,000. When I last visited, a new canvas encampment had sprung up on land owned by Manchester University, close to Piccadilly station: a fragile mini-shanty town, symbolising the fact that in the surrounding regenerated wonderland, scores of homeless people seem to have been reduced to an inconvenience.

At the heart of all this, there is often a kind of municipal Trump-ism, whereby police and crime commissioners, senior officers and politicians of all parties affect a crass language of crackdowns and zero tolerance, while doing little to get to grips with the actual issue. Obviously, they can account for their actions in terms of austerity: if average local authority funding for services helping people avoid homelessness was cut by 45% between 2010 and 2015, and homelessness and rough-sleeping are reaching such uncontrollable heights, what else can they do?

The answer to that is simple enough: whatever your intentions, once you start blankly criminalising people who need serious and wide-ranging help, you surely risk shutting down any argument for that kind of assistance ever returning. Fines and arrests back up the rightwing idea of character failure; George Osborne sleeps that bit more easily.

Here, though, is perhaps the most awful aspect of what’s happening. If the official attitude to people who sleep on the streets looks like cold contempt, we shouldn’t be all that surprised if that is reflected not just in public indifference and hostility, but in outright acts of inhumanity.

Back in Brighton, this week brought news of a homeless man suffering burnsafter his sleeping bag and cardboard shelter were set on fire. Vulnerability to violence is often at the heart of living without a home: if we reduce people to being annoying untouchables, maybe that’s the kind of terrible thing that will happen more often.


Hiroshima Memorial Day – 70th commemoration

01 Invite

Earlier today Exeter Interfaith and Belief Group along with the Lord Mayor hosted a small receptionat St Stephen’s Church  in honour of the 70 Anniversary of the Commemoration of Hiroshima Memorial Day.

On display was the certification of membership of Mayors for Peace – the leading international organization devoted to protecting cities from the scourge of war and mass destruction – which Exeter joined in 2005 under the Right Worshipful The Lord Mayor of Exeter, Hilda Sterry

02 Mayors for Peace - invitaton

Mayors for Peace was established in 1982 by Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the goal of realizing lasting world peace through inter-city solidarity around the globe promoting the efforts to raise a public consciousness of the need to abolish nuclear weapons. Since May 1991, Mayors for Peace has been registered as an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council .

Among the activiities and displays on offer at St Stephen’s was a paper crane making workshop – the story of Sadako Sasaki explains the relationship paper cranes and Hiroshoma. See also: How to fold a paper crane.

Paper Crane workshop
Paper Crane workshop
My Paper Crane
My Paper Crane

And Exeter CND member, the poet Peter Stevenson, had composed A Poem for Peace:

06 Poem for Peace -My verse
A Poem for Peace | Pete Stevenson

to which I added the verse:

07 Poem for Peace -My verse 01
My verse for A Poem for Peace

At 10:45, the assembled, behind the Lord Mayor of Exeter and honorary aldeman, processed to the Exeter Peace Tree on Southernay where a small ceremony took place.

10 Procession to Peace Tree 01
Procession arrives at Exeter peace Tree -1
11 Procession to Peace Tree 02
Procession arrives at Exeter peace Tree -2


Lord Mayor and others assemble at Exeter Peace Tree
Lord Mayor and others assemble at Exeter Peace Tree
18 Speech 01
Members of Exeter Inter-Faith and Belief Group at Exeter Peace Tree

Speech by the Right Worshipful The Lord Mayor of Exeter, Olwen Foggin

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As we face the memorial days, as the Lord Mayor of Exeter, I am honoured to attend this event as part of the international Mayors for Peace movement.

I hope that this significant anniversary will serve as a chance for everyone to remember once again the earnest message of the hibakusha – the surviving victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a Japanese word that literally translates as “explosion-affected people” – that “no one else should ever suffer as we did” , and also renew our commitment to realize a peaceful world free from nuclear weapons.

In these tragedies many died, but many others also lived to see their lives shredded, as their own wounded flesh, fading away slowly, in unbearable suffering from toxic radiation.

I want to honor the memory of these sufferers today and sincerely hope that their innocent sacrifice will serve the cause of peace in our world.

Today, in the arsenals of the nuclear powers, there are bombs which are 20 megatons and more, that is to say that each one has an explosive power more than 1,000 times than that of the Hiro-shi-ma bomb.

The future is not written in advance. We cannot penetrate the darkness of our fate. But everything urges us to consider that “nuclear weapons constitute the accepted end of mankind.”

Mankind remains under the effect of a perverse and permanent nuclear blackmail.

We must break free from it.

Everyone has the responsibility to do their part in saving humanity, and not to have to endure the fate that those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered, that we are here to commemorate today.

We look forward to the day when every country will be free from nuclear weapons,with all living in peace , prosperity , and tolerance.

That is a future legacy to be proud of full of hope and kindness.

I hope in marking this anniversary today, that from this will come the change I have outlined.

A story generations after us will tell, not with tears of sadness borne out of war or disaster, but tears of joy and hope for humanity from the lesson learned 70 years ago this week.

19 Speech 02 - LM
Right Worshipful The Lord Mayor of Exeter, Olwen Foggin

Following the ceremony, the gathering were invited to decorate the Exeter Peace Tree with their paper cranes.

28 PB at Peace Tree
Paul Bull places his paper crane in the Exeter Peace Tree
26 Peace Tree 07
Exeter Peace Tree decorated with paper cranes
27 Peace Tree - plaque
Dedication plaque at Exeter Peace Tree

Public consultation event on proposed new site for SW Exeter Park & Ride

For many years, Devon County Council has maintained that the only possible site for a Park & Ride scheme to serve the west of Exeter. So much so, DCC have already tried – unsuccessfully – to give permission to 2 planning applications on the site of Oaklands Riding Stables (owned by the Newberry family)

Trying for third time lucky, DCC were in the process of submitting an application earlier this year – so confident were they, that a workshop for key stakeholders was arranged and advertised. This was cancelled at a week’s notice.

Thanks to the hard work of Juliet Meadowcroft, Chair of Alphington Village Forum, a new site – the Round Field also owned by the Newberrys – was considered as a suitable alternative to theOakdlnds fields.

This new site is adjacent to the A30/A377 interchange (between the westbound A30 slip road and the road that leads out towards Ide).

On 21 July 2015, DCC launched a public consultation and this was accompanied with an event at West Exe School.

ALPHINGTON P&R: Introduction
ALPHINGTON P&R: Introduction


ALPHINGTON P&R: 1 (of 3)
ALPHINGTON P&R: Why is the site needed – 1 (of 3)


ALPHINGTON P&R: Why is the site needed - 2 (of 3)
ALPHINGTON P&R: Why is the site needed – 2 (of 3)

This graphic is interesting!

It shows the traffic flow along Alphington Road. I can quote it like a mantra ” 1000 cars an hour in both directions between 7am and 7pm”. I’ve known and loved this factoid since I started to take an interest in the siting of a Park & Ride.

But since then, DCC have carried out improvements alterations along Alphington Road and constructed the Grace Road Link into Marsh Barton, so I’m surprised that the graph doesn’t reference when the data they used was taken.

Is this previous data presented again? Or has there been a new survey since the failure of the 2011 planning application?

No-one at the event could provide an answer.

But even more curious is the pie-chart (apart from the use of percentages rather than actual numbers) – and the idea that 60% of the traffic using the Alphington Road corridor originates to the EAST of the city.

If this the case, why is the new Park & Ride scheme being developed to the WEST?

Once again, the pie-chart bears no clue as to when the survey was carried out. Could it be that the survey contributing to this graphic was taken during 2014 when Junction 29 was being remodelled?

ALPHINGTON P&R: Why is the site needed - 3 (of 3)
ALPHINGTON P&R: Why is the site needed – 3 (of 3)


ALPHINGTON P&R: Where should it be sited?- 1 (of 3)
ALPHINGTON P&R: Where should it be sited?- 1 (of 3)


ALPHINGTON P&R: Where should it be sited?- 2 (of 3)
ALPHINGTON P&R: Where should it be sited?- 2 (of 3)


ALPHINGTON P&R: Where should it be sited?- 3 (of 3)
ALPHINGTON P&R: Where should it be sited?- 3 (of 3)

ALPHINGTON P&R: Preferred option- 1 (of 2)ALPHINGTON P&R: Preferred option- 1 (of 2)ALPHINGTON P&R: Preferred option- 1 (of 2)

ALPHINGTON P&R: Preferred option- 1 (of 2)
ALPHINGTON P&R: Preferred option- 1 (of 2)


ALPHINGTON P&R: Preferred option- 2 (of 2)
ALPHINGTON P&R: Preferred option- 2 (of 2)


ALPHINGTON P&R: What will it look like? - 1 (of 4)
ALPHINGTON P&R: What will it look like? – 1 (of 4)


ALPHINGTON P&R: What will it look like? - 2 (of 4)
ALPHINGTON P&R: What will it look like? – 2 (of 4)


ALPHINGTON P&R: What will it look like? - 3 (of 4)
ALPHINGTON P&R: What will it look like? – 3 (of 4)


ALPHINGTON P&R: What will it look like? - 4 (of 4)
ALPHINGTON P&R: What will it look like? – 4 (of 4)



@ExeterPound – a different view of #Exeter

Exeter Pound selfie board
Exeter Pound selfie board

One of the problems we have as a City Council is we are always known for the big projects.

Purpose built student housing rather than delivering social housing.

Just this month Exeter City Councill finished building 14 Council-Own Build 3 bed homes. Built to high energy and environmental standards – the highly respected Passivhaus standard.

And that’s in addition to over 500 other social homes since 2009 – the majority for social rent – rather than the poorly named “affordable” rent. Again, there are more being built at the moment, and ambitious plans for the future.

And the day after I attended the preview night at John Lewis, I was less than 50m away at the launch of the Devon and Cornwall Food Association’s first home in Sidwell Street.

But it was when I was at the launch of the Exeter Trials maps at the Exeter Phoenix that it finally dawned on me – if each of the 100 indpendent businesses on the trial employed on average 3.5 people, the independent section in Exeter is bigger than John Lewis.

We don’t say that enough, so I’ll say it again.

The 101 businesses on the Exeter Trials employ more people than John Lewis.

And we know that Trail doesn’t include all the independents in the city – there are many many more of them trading all around our great city.

I want to help those independents and you  connect and engage with local communities

And I want to connect individuals to a wider variety of local, independent businesses in a colourful and engaging way.

In a way that can strengthening Exeter’s local economic character.

And in a way that can build financial and economic resilience.

A report by the New Economics Foundation highlights £1 spent in a local business creates £1.73 value for the local economy, but only 35p spent in a national supermarket chain

[New Economics Foundation The Money Trial]

Last year I was pleased that Exeter City Council Corporate Plan – Building a stronger sustainable city – promised to
“support the development of Exeter Pound to benefit local businesses”

And just 2 months ago, I and my labour colleagues were elected with a stronger commitment contained within our manifesto pledge to
“Support the development of the Exeter Pound local currency to support local businesses and independent traders.”

I believe it’s the way forward – so much so that I’ve already said that I will take a percentage of my Councillor allowance of £4500 per year in Exeter Pounds.

And that’s why I have agreed to join the board of Exeter Pound from next month

The Exeter Pound will foster stronger community connections, helping to bring together local consumers, businesses and suppliers who share a common interest: putting people and place over profits.

We want to celebrate Exeter’s rich history, culture and diversity, and recognize the need to look after our environment for future generations.

We’re all on a journey…

It’s a journey that I’ve enjoyed so, and I’m aware that one’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.

The Exeter Pound is this city’s new way of seeing things.

Come and look at the city from out point of view

Fracking in the Infrastructure Bill 2015

On Monday 26 January 2015, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee published Environmental risks of frackingwhich concluded that shale fracking should be put on hold in the UK because it is incompatible with our climate change targets and could pose significant localised environmental risks to public health.

The Committee proposed some amendments to introduce a moratorium, linked to the Bill’s clauses aimed at setting a strategy to maximise fossil fuel extraction – see NC 68  and NC 69 in Notice of Amendments [up to 22 January 2015.

FoE Press Release: Members of powerful committee of MPs call for fracking moratorium [22 January 2015]

Later that day, the House of Commons spent a very short time debating amendments the Infrastructure Bill 2015 [Hansard 26 Jan 2015 : Column 574].

In my view, too little time was allocated to the debate – particular when it’s being considered that we are currently seeing a zombie Parliament [ BBC Wales Has Westminster become a zombie parliament? 29 Jan 2015].

Like many people, I was disappointed and confused by some of the Divisions on that day:

Division 137:
Infrastructure Bill — NC 01  — Environmental Permits for Hydraulic Fracturing Activities
Ayes: 223; Noes: 319 – Question accordingly negatived
Had it not been rejected this amendment would have introduced a provision explicitly requiring an environmental permit for hydraulic fracturing activities (otherwise known as “fracking”).

Division 138:
Infrastructure Bill — NC 02  — Shale Gas Extraction in Scotland — Devolution of Regulation to Scottish Parliament
Ayes: 231; Noes: 324 – Question accordingly negatived
Had it not been rejected this clause would have added the regulation of shale gas extraction in Scotland to a list of exceptions to the list of powers relating to oil and gas in Scotland “reserved” by the UK Parliament.

Division 139:
Infrastructure Bill — NC 09  — Moratorium on Onshore Unconventional Petroleum — Review Impacts of Exploitation
Ayes: 308; Noes: 54 – Question accordingly negatived
Had it not been rejected this amendment would have banbed the exploitation of unconventional petroleum (including “fracking”) for at least 18 months and not to require a review of the impact of such exploitation on climate change, the environment, the economy, and health and safety be carried out and published.

Labour’s NC 19 amendment was passed without going to Division because earlier in the debate Energy Minister Amber Rudd accepted the amendment:
“It is this Government’s view that we will accept new clause 19 here,” she said. “But we plan on looking to amend it in the Other Place to replace provision G on the depth with a view to put back the depth at the appropriate level for proper development.”

FoE Press Release: Public pressure forces Government retreat on fracking [26 January 2015] Infrastructure Bill: What it means and what they said [27 January 2015]

I asked Ben Bradshaw for some clarifications on the debate.

It seems that I wasn’t alone, and this is the composite letter I received.

Thank you for contacting me recently about shale gas extraction and the debate and votes on the issue on Monday January 26th during the final (Report) stages of the Government’s Infrastructure Bill. A number of constituents wrote to me about a number of the different amendments (New Clauses). I shall deal with them all.

Firstly, as you are probably aware, if you have studied this issue closely, there is no shale gas near Exeter. I’m attaching  [DECC’s The Unconventional Hydrocarbons Resources of Britain’s Onshore Basins – Shale Gas 2013, which contains ] a map of the distribution of shale gas in the UK, in case you haven’t seen it.

Shale gas distribution
Shale gas distribution

However, as far as those parts of the UK are concerned where there is shale gas, I am delighted that, faced with a Parliamentary defeat, the Government did a complete U-turn and accepted all of Labour’s demands in full. These were contained in New Clause 19, which prevents all shale gas development in the UK unless and until a series of stringent conditions are met.

These conditions and protections have been developed by Labour contained working with organisations including the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Local Government Association and drawing on work by Royal Academy of Engineering and other bodies. They:

  1. Prohibit shale gas extraction in groundwater protection zones.
  2. Require shale gas operators to individually notify residents of activity, rather than publishing a generic notice.
  3. Put the payment of community benefit onto a statutory footing.
  4. Introduce a presumption against development in Protected Areas.
  5. Prohibit the use of “any substance” in the frack fluid, as in current legislation.
  6. Ensure that decommissioned land is returned to a state required by the planning authority.
  7. Place an obligation on operators to monitor and report fugitive emissions.
  8. Empower local planning authorities to consider the cumulative impact of multiple developments in their area.
  9. Ensure that there is independent inspection of well integrity.
  10. Require 12 months of baseline assessments.
  11. Require all shale gas sites to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments
  12. Make water companies statutory consultees in the planning process.
  13. Extend the depth at which fracking could take place from 300m to 1000m.

Some of you wrote to me about New Clause 68 – tabled by my Labour colleague, Joan Walley, who chairs the Environment Audit Committee. Her committee published a report on shale gas extraction on the day of the debate. Joan did not push her New Clause to a vote, but Labour’s New Clause 19 delivers in practice everything that was contained in New Clause 68.

New Clause 51 on trespass, was not selected for debate and vote by the Speaker. We believe New Clause 19 deals with the concerns that motivated this New Clause in a more effective way.

Labour abstained on New Clause 9 because we considered it weaker than New Clause 19. New Clause 9 simply called for an 18 to 30 month moratorium during a “review”, with no conditionality attached as to what would happen after that and would have delivered no improvement at all in the regulatory framework.

Labour has always said that shale gas extraction should not happen unless we have a system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection. This Government has consistently ignored people’s genuine and legitimate environmental concerns.

I’m extremely grateful to you and my other constituents who have contacted me about this issue and helped us keep the pressure on the Government.

The main danger now is that if the Tories win the election they will scrap all these safeguards. The only thing that can ensure this doesn’t happen and our environment remains protected will be the election of a Labour Government on May 7th.

Finally, it goes without saying that UK energy policy needs a massive shift towards low and zero carbon generation. I have been dismayed by the decline in the growth of the renewables sector under this Government. Labour is committed to revitalising the renewables sector and to a binding carbon reduction target by 2030.

I hope this is helpful, but if you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get back in touch.

With very best wishes,

Ben Bradshaw

New Clause 68:
Joan Walley, Mark Lazarowicz, Caroline Lucas, Dr Matthew Offord, Mrs Caroline Spelman, Dr Alan Whitehead, Zac Goldsmith, Katy Clark,  Martin Caton, Dr Julian Hupper

Clause 37, page 39, line 17, leave out “the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum, in particular through” and insert “not the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum but ensuring that fossil fuelemissions are limited to the carbon budgets advised by the Committee on Climate Change and introducing a moratorium on the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas deposits in order to reduce the risk of carbon budgets being breached, in particular through—”

Member’s explanatory statement:
This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on 26 January (Eighth Report, HC 856).

New Clause 69:
Joan Walley, Mark Lazarowicz, Caroline Lucas, Dr Matthew Offord, Mrs Caroline Spelman, Dr Alan Whitehead, Zac Goldsmith, Katy Clark,  Martin Caton, Dr Julian Hupper

Title, line 10, leave out “to make provision about maximising economic recovery of petroleum in the United Kingdom;”

Member’s explanatory statement:
This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on 26 January (Eighth Report, HC 856).

The history of Part-Night Street Lighting in #Cowick

It’s been a long convoluted journey leading to the introduction of Part-Night Street Lighting [PNSL] in Cowick on All-Fools’ Day on 01/04/4.

Devon County Council have been keen to introduce a scheme of switching of  non-essential street lighting between the hours of 12:30am and 5:30am for many years.

A new street lighting policy was approved in July 2007 (ref: EEC/07/216/HQ)

A decision to implement part night lighting in residential areas was approved in January 2009 (ref: EEC/09/8/HQ).

MWN announced the start of PNSL in Big Switch-Off in Devon on 08 October 2009

Back in 2009 justification was as a carbon saving measure (It is estimated that PNSL across the county could save up to 4,000 tonnes of CO2, but of late all the rhetoric has been about cutting the budget and saving money.

By August 2010, there was talk of a 6-month trial period of PNSL in Exeter – as reported by WMN in Council leaders are considering Part-night street lighting (28 Aug 2010).

I was selected to stand as Labour and Co-operative candidate in November 2010.

In December, I wrote A Bright Idea? highlighting the environmental advantages, but asking for the views of residents.

Just after i was elected in May 2011, I wrote to DCC asking what was being planned – but I received no response.

The next we heard was that  in April 2012, DCC Cabinet agreed to purchase a Street Lighting Monitoring System at an estimated cost of £1.7m

This was reported by WMN on 11 April 2012 in £1.7m cost of technology to turn off street lights.

The report carried a quote from Cllr Stuart Hughes, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation:  “The new system would allow the council more flexibility to manage, monitor or dim lights progressively, as traffic and pedestrian numbers dropped, and turn them on and off as needed.”

 Then in early 2013, we heard a rumour that DCC were planning to introduce PNSL across Exeter – no details, no timetable, nothing.It was thought DCC would just turn the lights off all over the city without any consultation – perhaps even doing across Exeter on one night?

The consultation on Exeter PNSL was (apparently) launched at the beginning of May 2013, but I first found out about the proposals almost a month later!

On 06 June 2013 Express and Echo outlined the PNSL proposals in a article In the dark? Much of Exeter faces blackout

Devon County Council has a dedicated website about PNSL for Exeter, and under proposals states: “Outline proposals have been developed with the help of local councillors, the police and other stakeholders.”

What that really means is that councillors both Exeter City Council and Devon County Council demanded a Members’ Briefing with DCC’s Street Lighting Team and Cabinet Members to discuss how PNSL would work in Exeter.

Once the consultation was underway, I wrote another Storify, Is DCC taking a dim view of Exeter with it’s *consultation* on PNSL?

Some of those themes were developed in More on PNSL

In  September 2013, E&E was talking about a leaked police report that raised major concerns over PNSL plans

17/04/14 | #ExeterPNSL starts on April Fools Day

16/08/14 | #TorbayPNSL or not?

12/11/14 | Bowhay Lane #Cowick

18/11/14 | #ExeterPNSL Part 3

29/11/14 | #ExeterPNSL

11/12/14 | #CowickPNSL

11/12/14 | #DCC meeting about #PNSL in #Exeter

22/12/14 | #PNSL according the Labour Party 

Update on #ExeterPNSL

Back in December I was part of delegation of West Exe cllrs who met with officers dealing with part-night street lighting for Exeter.

One of the topics I raised was the lack of information about problems and progress.

This update from Devon County Council showing the progress in the implementation of part-night lighting in Exeter indicates they have taken note of those comments.

The update will be formally presented at the Exeter HATOC meeting of 27 January and will be revised monthly.


PROGRESS UPDATE – 16 December 2014

The implementation of part-night operation of street lights in Exeter began in September 2013 in Alphington and Cowick wards and involved the fitting of remote monitoring components into existing lanterns and replacement of existing lanterns that were not suitable. Similar work in Exwck and St Thomas wards began in October 2013.

Street lights in Alphington and Cowick started operating part-night in April 2014 and in Exwick and St Thomas in May 2014.

Each individual street light has a communication node fitted to it and up to 250 lighting units in an area are controlled by a Branch node located within the ward.

Communication between the nodes and branch, and between the branch and central control is via air-borne radio communication and can be accessed via the internet. So it is possible to allocate switching profiles to individual and groups of lights so that they can operate all-night or part-night.

The efficient operation of this remote monitoring system relies on good radio communications and the geographic location of branch controllers, so that command instructions can be issued as necessary. The lights themselves will operate during the day for a day or two when first commissioned and then operate dusk to dawn, or part-night as required. In some instances however, lights have been on during the day for longer than envisaged, either as a result of poor communications, or faulty components.

These issues have affected a small percentage of lights so far converted and the County Council has been working closely with the system manufacturer to resolve these problems. In the main, a re-mapping of nodes and their branch controllers have been sufficient to improve communications, but in some areas it has been necessary to install additional branch controllers.

The County Council will continue to work closely with the system manufacturer in implementing this new technology in Exeter and using it to its full potential.

Conversion work began in Duryard and Pennsylvania wards in June 2014 and lights started operating part-night in November 2014.

Conversion work began in St James ward in October 2014 and in St Davids ward in November, lights in both wards will remain operational all night.

The table below gives details of units converted to-date in each ward with the remaining provisional implementation programme shown in descending order.

Alphington 99% Complete * Yes 1214 792
Cowick 99% Complete * Yes 441 331
St Thomas 99% Complete * Yes 398 305
Exwick 99% Complete * Yes 889 190
Duryard 99% Complete * Yes 193 143
Pennsylvania 99% Complete * Yes 634 462
St James 99% Complete * No 330 0
St Davids 99% Complete * No 218 0
Priory Branch & new units Not Yet 18 0
St Leonards Branch & new units Not Yet 6 0
Newtown Branch node only No 1 0
Polsloe Branch & new units Not Yet 4 0
Pinhoe Branch & new units Not Yet 20 0
Mincinglake Branch node only Not Yet 1 0
Heavitree Branch & new units Not Yet 21 0
Whipton Barton Branch & new units Not Yet 8 0
St Loyes Branch & new units Not Yet 3 0
Topsham Branch & new units Not Yet 31 0

* Although conversion works are substantially complete, there are a small number of lanterns that are of modern architectural design, or classic heritage type, that are not suitable for immediate conversion with the remote monitoring system. These lanterns may also be expensive to replace, or still have quite a long working life remaining.

As technology develops and when the bulk of the works are complete in Exeter as a whole, the wards will be revisited to see if there are affordable solutions to address these remaining lanterns.

Branch nodes, which control over 200 lighting units, have been installed in all wards, more than one in some wards. The remote monitoring equipment has also been installed where lanterns have been replaced, or developments have been taking place. These wards will not operate part-night until conversion works are substantially complete.