#Exeter street lights will stay off on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve

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.

One particular question was:

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?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR HUGHES

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.

The reasoning behind this particular question goes all the way back to June 2013 when DCC Cabinet Members and Highways/Street Lighting officers gave a briefing on PNSL to cllrs – of all hues and from both Exeter City Council and Devon County Council.

I’ve just checked through my notes, tweets, storify feeds and blogs, but I can’t find what I was looking for.

At that briefing, I distinctly remember one of the representatives telling us that the £1.7m computerised Central Management System would be able to revert back to all-night street lighting for “special occasions” when more people than normal may be out and about in the dark – and I believe he even mentioned New Year’s Eve!

Earlier today, Roy forwarded a formal written response to his question at Full Council which sheds some light [yes, pun intended] on how DCC view such a request

Whilst it is technically possible to switch all of the lights on in Exeter on the 24th and 30th December, I think it is unnecessary give the consultation on the scheme and the care we have taken to develop the Exeter scheme. 

We have agreed that certain routes and areas in Exeter will remain lit including:

  • 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, this leaves residential areas operating on a part night basis with the lights in those areas where Part-Night [Street] Lighting has been installed switching off between about 12:30 and coming back on at about 5:30. In these areas, people should be becoming familiar with the regime, which will operate throughout the year.

We have suggested that anyone planning to be out in a part-night lit area late at night carries a torch to illuminate part of their journey. 

The agreed approach on changing from part-night to full time operation of a light is to base a decision on evidence, which in needs to be supported by the police in the case of fear of crime. So, if there is any evidence that can be used to justify a change we can look at this but otherwise, given the process we have been through, I don’t see the need to make a wholesale change to the agreed scheme.

The response makes no mention of those “special occasions” when more people may be taking to the streets in the dark – and so it looks like the next “special occasion’ might be the arrival of the next millennium!

So if you’re planning to be out and out after midnight, please stay safe AND REMEMBER YOUR TORCH

BhRG78CIcAAHVfN

.

Open Letter to Cllr Stuart Hughes (DCC Cabinet Member for Highway Management and Flood Prevention)

Serious Concerns over PNSL in Cowick

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.

Street light reflected in car windscreen on Bowhay Lane
Street light reflected in car windscreen on Bowhay Lane

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

ALL day street lighting in Kerswill Road
ALL day street lighting in Kerswill Road

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 Richard 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 team 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

Paul

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

WMN | £1.7m cost of technology to turn off street lights

11 April 2012

Technology costing £1.7 million would centralise Devon County Council’s controversial scheme [known as part night street lighting] to turn off street lights in the dead of night to save cash and energy.

Exeter has been earmarked for the first phase of the new system, which would eventually be rolled out across Devon.

The city is next in line to see many of its 12,000 street lights turned off or dimmed between 12.30am and 5.30am to save cash and reduce its carbon footprint.

But campaigners are warning that it could put public safety at risk.

The new technology, which will be considered by the council’s cabinet today, would mean that the system could be operated over a web-based interface, from a central point.

The cost of up to £1.7 million is expected to be paid back over about six years from savings generated by the scheme.

Devon’s 76,000 street lights account for almost a quarter of the authority’s carbon footprint, and the energy they use alone costs £3.4 million a year.

In January 2009, the council agreed a policy to switch off many street lights between 12.30am and 5.30am – though some lights stay on all night on busy routes or where a need has been demonstrated.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: “The scheme was expected to save up to 4,000 tonnes of CO2 and approximately £450,000 on the council’s electricity bill over the entire programme.

“However, after just one year, figures show that there has already been a CO2 emission saving of nearly 2,900 tonnes and a cost saving of £484,000.”

He said 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.

He added: “We believe a combination of part-time night lighting and the new remote monitoring system means savings for taxpayers, savings in CO2 emissions and makes for a more efficient and cost-effective street lighting network.”

Mr Hughes said the council understood some people were worried about the possibility of more crime occurring during the hours of darkness.

“Crime levels have been monitored since the scheme was introduced and in some instances, this has shown a reduction in night-time crime since part-night lighting was installed,” he said.