Street lights could be turned off in Kent

More than 70,000 street lights could be switched off overnight in Kent.

Street lighting currently costs Kent County Council (KCC) £5.1 million per year. In an effort to make savings the local authority will trial the switch off of unnecessary lights and introduce part-night lighting.

The energy used to light Kent’s streets next year will increase to £6.4 million and will produce 29,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to KCC.

Over the past two years it has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce energy consumption, including:

  • Replacing 3,441 failing lamps with energy efficient ones
  • Setting lights to come on later and go off earlier
  • Dimming lights at predetermined times

These initiatives have reduced energy charges by £130,000.

However, KCC has vowed to do more and will do so in two phases:

Phase one – trial the switch off of unnecessary lights: Where current design standards would not recommend street lighting and there would be no adverse effect on the local area, we are switching off selected lights on a trial basis for a year. This phase is currently underway.

Phase two – part-night lighting: On selected roads, we propose that some lights would be turned off for a number of hours over night, possibly between midnight and 5:30am.

In a KCC report titled ‘A common sense plan for safe and sensible street lighting’ part night lighting is explained.

Part of the report reads as follows: “This involves installing a new light sensor in each column that has a timer built into it. The net result is that the column would light automatically at dusk, turn off at a pre-determined time (possibly midnight), turn back on at a predetermined time (possibly 5am) and stay on until first light.

Other than complete removal of lighting, part night lighting provides the most significant energy savings. Two categories of roads could be suitable for this, minor roads (which includes residential, estate and rural roads) and high speed roads. There are over 70,000 street lights in these roads which could be changed to part-night lighting and could result in a reduction of 10% in the annual energy bill.”

KCC has around 118,500 street lights and 29,000 lit signs/bollards. All street lights in Kent are continually lit during the hours of darkness. This means they automatically turn on at dusk (due to a fitted light sensor in each column) and turn off at first light.

Lights will be considered suitable for part-night lighting unless they meet one or more of the exclusion criteria listed below:

  • Main routes and locations with a significant night-time traffic record between 12 midnight and 5:30am (1am and 6:30am during British Summer Time).
  • Town centres.
  • Areas identified by the police as having an existing record of crime or having the potential for increased crime levels if the street lighting is changed.
  • Areas with sheltered housing and other residences accommodating vulnerable people.
  • Areas with operational emergency services site including hospitals and nursing homes.
  • Formal pedestrian crossings, subways and enclosed footpaths and alleyways where one end links to a road that is lit all night.
  • Where road safety measures are in place on the highway, such as roundabouts, central carriageways islands, chicanes, speed humps, etc.
  • Roads that have local authority CCTV or Police surveillance equipment.
  • Sites with existing or with potential road safety concerns.

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