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.

Part-night street lighting West of Exe – a review meeting

So we’ve finally had that meeting to review how part-night street lighting has been working West of Exe – and from my perspective in Cowick.

Joining me were Cllr Roy Hill (Alphington/Cowick) and Cllr Rob Hannaford (Exwick/StThomas), who sit on Devon County Council and Cllr Margaret Clark who represents Alphington on Exeter City Council.

The meeting was confrontational and fiery as we 4 councillors tried to sum up your (and our) frustrations about PNSL. Here’s some of the key points

During the lead-up to the introduction of PNSL (which started in Alphington and Cowick on All Fools’ Day in 2014), we were told that Exeter was no different from the rest of Devon…what in reality this meant was that “implementing the policy was perceived as no different”

I challenged them that of course if was different as Exeter was to use a different system to the rest of Devon, where the street lights are switched on and off by a time-switch.

Part-night street lighting in Exeter is controlled by a brand-new £1.7m computer-based Central Management System [CMS] approved by DCC Cabinet at a meeting on 11 April 2012 which allowed for much more flexibility and control over Exeter’s street lights.

The report that went to that meeting said: “The system would enable the County Council to dim or switch-off street lighting for part of the night. It would enable a combination of the two, so that lighting levels could be reduced progressively as traffic and pedestrian flows fall off, and then switch off for a period of the night. It would allow part-night lights to be switched back on in an emergency. It would identify lamp failures and lamps reaching end of life thus enabling a targeted approach to lamp replacement

I asked which system had been chosen and when. The officers from DCC confirmed that Harvard’s LeafNut system had been chosen, and  this was the preferred system referred to in the report that went to DCC Cabinet in April 2012.

Then the officers added something that came as something of a surprise…”there is no perfect system out there” . That’s what I wrote down at the time and is as close to verbatim as I can get,

So how does Harvard’s LeafNut CMS work?

LeafNut uses a TrunkNode central web server to communicate by GSM mobile phone to the BranchNode control units mounted in the light. The BranchNodes are in wireless communication with up to 256 LeafNodes, which are linked directly to an electronic ballast in each street light.

In setting-up the system, individual street lights need to be on (“day burn”) for a couple of days – No, I don’t know why, either!

When the area BranchNode loses contact with the individual LeafNodes, the whole system goes into a fail-safe” mode, which means that the street lights controlled by that BranchNode come on…even during the daytime!

Apparently, finding suitable locations for the BranchNodes is a matter of some “trial and error, however uncomfortable that may be” (close to a direct quote)

So this has led the officers to confirm to us that the implementation of PNSL “has not been problem-free” , there was “lots of hassle”, and they “were disappointed with the disruption” (again, direct quotes!). But the officers did confirm they were doing their best to reduce the impact of the problems

Whatever my thoughts on the PNSL policy, DCC were going to implement it across vast areas of Exeter, so I have taken the pragmatic approach to ensure that in practice the policy was as safe as possible. To this end, I welcomed DCC intention to be able switch on specific street lights “at the flick of a switch” if requested by Devon & Cornwall Police and other Blue Light services in emergency situations.

Through some recent correspondence, it became apparent that this system hasn’t been put in place, let alone tested, in the 7 months that street lights West of Exe have been operating as PNSL

And the officers’s response to my shock and anger this failing was that they didn’t see it as a priority and wanted to sort out the other problems besetting the system first. I AM HORRIFIED BY THIS STATEMENT and we’ve got an assurance that this will be dealt with within the next 2 weeks.

Now onto those 06:00 rather than 05;30 ends to the PNSL cycle. The initial report to DCC Cabinet said that the CMS would enable DCC to swtitch-off and DIM  street lights.

What was planned was that the lights would come back on at 05:30 and at 06:00 would start to progressively dim, until natural light levels would switch them off for the daytime.

A major computer software update took place and officers were *unaware*that they had to carry-out a two-part instruction to complete the update – this resulted in the switch-on and dimming phases both starting at 6a. Hopefully this is now rectified?

That led on to a discussion keeping residents up-to-date about progress on part-night street lighting.

When WoE councillors were told about the impending start of the big switch-off, my Cowick colleague (Cllr Heather Morris) was told that DCC would use traditional mainstream media.

What this meant in practice was that DCC issued a media release on 31/03/14 when PNSL came to Cowick at 00:30 on 01/04/14. Thus it was reported on the Express And Echo  website ahead of the switch-off but was only reported in the weekly print edition on 03/04/14.

But ahead of that, Heather and I did our best to make everyone in Cowick aware, whether face-to-face on the doorstep and meetings, in our newsletters and on social media presence. I know that I did at least 2 radio interviews with Matt Woodley for BBC Devon’s Good Morning Devon and one for Spotlight.

Since then , there’s been 3 issues of the Exeter Citizen, each with an insert from DCC but no mention of PNSL. Surely a publication delivered FREE to each and every household and business in Exeter would be a good vehicle to let the residents of Exeter keep up-to-date with the progress of PNSL? The officers didn’t know how to access those pages…we let them know.

With all the problems besetting PNSL over the river, you would have thought that this would be a good time to delay the roll-out to other parts of Exeter? But no, DCC issued a media release dated 17/11/14 for PNSL to start in the wards of Duryard and Pennsylvania on 19/11/14.

Yet during the meeting the officers let slip that it didn’t start there until “last night” (yes, another direct quote) –  that would have been 27/11/14, EIGHT days after the advertised date. No wonder, citizens of Exeter are confused about PNSL.


Time for a newsletter to be delivered around Cowick

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COWICK NEWLETER Autumn 2014-01COW Autumn 2014