Staffordshire’s highways chief has pledged not to introduce a blanket night time switch off of street lighting following an in depth review of the operation.
However, the county council will work with any parish council that would like to reduce some of its lighting overnight, as long as the move is supported by the community.
The review also revealed that £8 million could be saved over the next 16 years by installing hi tech dimming equipment in the columns which will bring lighting to the appropriate level for its use.
This proposal was overwhelmingly supported by the People’s Panel that gives the views of residents in the county. Eighty-two per cent of those consulted either agreed or did not oppose proposals to dim street lights from late evening to early morning.
This view reflects the findings of many councils across the UK that have already dimmed their lights and have reported successful trials with no rises in crime or anti-social behaviour as a result.
However, the county council will monitor the situation as the changes are rolled out and will review the dimming proposals if any adverse effects are noted.
The county council has worked closely with its street lighting partner to secure the significant long term savings while maintaining the same level of performance. This unique agreement has gone above and beyond Government guidance when renegotiating PFI (Private Finance Initiative) contracts and is ground breaking in its approach.
The Enterprise, Environment and Scrutiny Committee will discuss the plans on May 1.
County Councillor Maryon said: “We have carried out a detailed review of our entire street lighting operation, exploring the latest in technology, energy conservation and service delivery. After examining the results of this study we have decided not to introduce a blanket night time switch off of street lighting - but we will be working with communities, as part of the localism agenda and giving them the choice of what happens with street lighting in their area.
“We will, however, look to upgrade our columns by either fitting or retro fitting special dimming technology which will save £8 million over the next 16 years. The robust contract that the county council initially put in place in 2003 has allowed us to do this. By installing excellent quality lighting initially we are now able to simply upgrade the electronics rather than having to invest in brand new equipment.
“In the past we have over lit areas because the technology was not available for us to control the level of light. This created light pollution that was unnecessary. Dimming the lights to the right level will also have some excellent environmental side effects, particularly for star gazers who should be able to see the night sky much more clearly. Other councils have already introduced this system with excellent results and we are keen to follow their example of best practice for the benefit of Staffordshire’s residents.
“We are constantly looking for ways to save taxpayers’ money so that we can continue to protect vital frontline services while offering good value for money.”
Communities could ask for their street lights to be switched off from midnight until 6am when traffic and pedestrian flows are at the lowest.
Data gathered from across Staffordshire by the county council revealed that traffic on the majority of roads decreases significantly after 6.30pm and any dimming of lights will happen after this time.
Even if the lights are dimmed, they would still meet the Government’s guidelines in terms of brightness – in the past Staffordshire has gone above and beyond what is legally required.
Since 2003 a total of 30,000 new street lights have been installed across Staffordshire. Under the plans, almost half of these would be retro fitted with the specialist technology.
A further 27,000 street lights would be replaced before 2028 the majority of which would be upgraded with the new equipment.
The plans would see £3.67 million saved due a reduction in energy costs and £4.45 million on maintenance costs.