Duplicate Street Lighting

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Project to switch off some duplicate street lights to save CO2 emissions

We are taking action to switch off some duplicate street lights where they perform no useful function and waste energy.

Across Essex there are a number of street lights that illuminate the same area; often this duplication has happened when a new development has installed street lights which were then adopted by the Council and in a few cases then overlap with existing illumination.

We now plan to switch off the small proportion of identified duplicates – working with district and borough councils in the process.

Essex Highways’ street lighting staff will begin the project in late December 2019 and continue during 2020.

The proposal is to do a detailed 'desktop' mapping exercise and then follow this up with on-site investigations of each light which has been identified as possibly duplicate. Only where the light is found to be lighting the same area as another street light, and where there are no safety concerns, will that light be switched off. Signs will be put on switched-off lights, so people do not report them as being faulty.

A pilot project has been mapped out where we have identified 36 potentially duplicate lights out of a total of 2260 in the area for potential switch-off. This is approximately 1.5% of lights estimated as duplicates. If the same ratio is consistent across Essex, then about 2,000 lights out of 127,000* lights in total could be turned off.

Questions and Answers

Q 1. Why are you doing this?

A: We are taking action to switch off some duplicate street lights where they perform no useful function and waste energy.

Q 2. How can you be sure switching off a particular light will not leave road users less safe?

A: Once we have identified a street light as potentially largely duplicating another one, a lighting engineer will visit the light on site at night to check that there really is just overlapping light. Only then, and after a check with the local councillors, will the light be switched off.

Q 3. How will a member of the public know the light is supposed to be switched off and it isn’t just broken?

A: When we switch off a light, we will attach a durable sticker stating is has been switched off on the lamp column, with a web link to find out more information.

Q 4. Why don’t you remove the switched-off lights?

A: Removal is an expensive process, if we did this we wouldn’t make net savings for some time. Instead, we will only remove the column if it fails in our regular structural tests, or if we are removing/replacing another old column in the area it will be efficient to remove the switched-off column while we are there.

Q 5. How did we come to have so many duplicate lights working?

A: Often this is historic, so that as one road or path was built and lit, its designers did not take into account the lights present already on an adjacent site. For example, a developer designing a new residential street follows their formula for the correct lighting spacing along the new street, not taking into account a street light on what will become the corner of the old and new street. Ideally it wouldn’t happen, but it has.

Q 6. Will this apply to both all-night lights and part-night lights if they are duplicates?

A: Yes, whether the street lights are all-night or part-night and LED lights or not, they will be considered in the programme.

Q 7. Where 30mph zones are defined by streetlighting, will that be affected by switching off some lights?

A: Where 30mph speed limits are demonstrated by street lighting, the limit will not be affected; we will only switch off duplicated lighting.

Q 8. Will you remove the lamp columns, (lamp posts), when you switch a light off?

A: Lamp columns will not be removed until they fail a structural or an electrical test as part of the annual testing programme, or unless other damaged/failed columns are being removed or replaced in the same area and it is therefore economical to carry out the work.

Q 9. What if a councillor, or someone contacting a councillor, has real concerns about safety which might be affected by switching off a light?

A: The programme will be carried out district by district, with relevant county councillors informed of intentions so they can make representations before any street light is switched off if they have any concerns.

Q 10. How many lights will you switch off across Essex?

A: We manage over 127,000* street lights and it is estimated, depending on engineers’ onsite investigations, that up to 2,000 street lights could be switched off. To show which street lights have been turned off, a recognisable sticker will be placed on each lamp column.

Q 11. Will this save any money for taxpayers?

A: We estimate savings each year of about £60,000 from reduced electricity costs and less repairs required, with the money saved available for fixing potholes and other road and pavement repairs. Perhaps more importantly, over time these measures will save significant CO2 pollution at power stations.

*correct at time of publication