Streetlight switch-off: Hertfordshire County Council debates controversial policy (From Borehamwood Times)
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Streetlight switch-off: Hertfordshire County Council debates controversial policy
This live event has finished
- Hertfordshire County Council overview and scrutiny committee is meeting today to review Part Night Lighting.
- The scheme was rolled out between June 2010 and September last year in order to save money and electricity.
- However, it received a mixed reception from residents across the county, some of whom were concerned about the darkness inviting criminal activity.
- Today’s committee heard from the emergency services and the county’s engineers and project managers, as well as individuals including the CEO of Watford Women’s Centre.
- By the end of the meeting, at 4pm, it was concluded a report will be written up and circulated, before being published later this month.
- The executive member will examine any recommendations and the whole process will be reviewed in six months time.
Bottom line - the lights will remain off between midnight and 6am.
That is it for this meeting. A report will be written up and circulated, before being published later this month. The executive member will examine any recommendations and the whole process will be reviewed in six months time.
Tom Hawkyard, head of scrutiny is now summing up.
Things are drawing to a close now so we have returned to the four questions set out at the start of the meeting.
1. Did the change to Part Night Lighting deliver the benefits as intended? Councillors agreed the scheme was both money saving and environmentally friendly.
2. What has been the impact of Part Night Lighting changes on road safety?
3. What has been the impact of Part Night Lighting changes on criminality and night time safety? The answer to both was minimal.
That just leaves:
4. What alternatives are there to the current policy? Changes to LED lights have been suggested.
#hertsblackout they should at least wait until after the last train before turning the street lights out.— @luluwitcherr 01 October 2013
#hertsblackout don't understand why they did this in the first place, can't see anything when walking home from Croxley Station. Too scary!— @luluwitcherr 01 October 2013
In total Leicester County Council turned off 882 streetlights permanently, 1,069 have been dimmed and 24,000 have been converted to part night lighting.
Leicester’s scheme involved dimming some lights between 7pm to 7am, and turning others off between midnight and 5.30am.
Peter Hosking from Leicester County Council is now talking about his council's part night lighting scheme.
Residents surveys show there R areas that really want lights on l8r. We need local flexibility & 2 listen 2 local people. #HertsBlackout— @HertsLibDems 01 October 2013
Central and Oxhey ward councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst said:
“The road adjacent to Watford Junction has no streetlights on past midnight.
“It is the only access to the short term car park. We need a review of roads adjacent to main transport hubs.
“It is ludicrous that people coming from the last train to Watford have to walk in the dark to their cars.”
"Local flexibility" is very much the buzzword. There is very little chance of the lights being switched back on. #HertsBlackout— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
Watford mayor, Dorothy Thornhill
In the letter she says: “We are the most urban town in the county. We have a very vibrant night life and a population that is not all tucked up in bed by midnight (unlike me).
“We also have many shift workers, so still feel 1am would be a more appropriate time for a switch off.”
We're now going to look at correspondence received by HCC, including a letter from Watford mayor Dorothy Thornhill.
Councillor Sandy Walkington said: “Many low paid shift workers tend to be female and it’s very unfair if they now have to pay for a bus or a taxi.”
Councillor Sandy Walkington
Councillor Malcolm Cowan said working at night was a “growing phenomenon” and asked for figures to be provided for the number of night workers in the county.
Ms Alford said: "It discriminates against teenagers coming back from nightclubs, and shift workers, a lot of whom are poorly paid and are now having to put up with being plunged into darkness.
"I like to go on late-night walks and this restricts my freedom of movement and is effectively a curfew.
"We are a 24/7 society, people have differing sleeping patterns and none of this was taken into consideration.
Suzanne Alford is from the “Turn Our Street Lights Back On” Facebook group
"We want a flexible response from the county council, and some light at the end of the tunnel to help people who are out at those times. Give us some hope."
Suzanne Alford is from the “Turn Our Street Lights Back On” Facebook group, which has 1,380 members.
She has also collected a petition of more than 5,000 signatures, 500 from her housing estate in Borehamwood.
She said: “I am here to represent the human element. It was wholly undemocratic and dictatorial to not consult residents.”
No report from Tracey Burke, CEO of Watford Women's Centre, as she has had to pull out.— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
Impressively thorough scrutiny of Partial Night Lighting in Herts underway at HCC. V detailed. Happy to see my emails to resident part of it— @CllrCWoodward 01 October 2013
@Observer_Owl A 72 year old friend of mine got hit by a cyclist in the dark and broke his arm last week.This is a seriously crazy policy.— @Jez1881 01 October 2013
Short break for lunch now before we hear from Tracey Burke, CEO of Watford Women's Centre, and Suzanne Alford from "Turn Our Streetlights Back On".
Two other petitioners have had to pull out from giving presentations.— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
After the break we will hear from Tracey Burke, CEO of Watford Women's Centre, and Suzanne Alford from "Turn Our Streetlights Back On".— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
@Review_Eagle Love it! Can sleep better.Wish people would turn off their outdoor lights at night too! PiR lights more effective for security— @pooroldbird 01 October 2013
Breaking for lunch now following that flurry of stats.
@Review_Eagle no I'm not 'sick' of it. I rather like it. Reduced Light Pollution. Night sky more visible/beautiful.— @TurveyM 01 October 2013
@Adam_WatfordObs good point. I had all my hub caps nicked last month at night on my unlit road— @MJatWatford 01 October 2013
Theft has increased in Watford, from 66 to 71. Possession and supply of drugs has increased from 98 to 141. Sex crimes are up from 4 to 6. Possession of a weapon has increased from 4 to 6.
Theft from person has increased slightly in Watford
However, in St Albans, the numbers have increased from 6 in 2009/10 to 38 in 2012/13.
Hertsmere is the only area with more criminal damage in 2012/13 than in 2009/10.
Three Rivers is the only area in the county to have recorded more burglaries in 2012/13 than in 2009/10, when the lights were still on.
Interestingly, although sex crime is at "a low level" (figures not given) the numbers have been skewed by the reporting of historic crimes.
Mr Rhead concluded by saying: “There is a fear of crime, but crime levels have not increased broadly." #HertsBlackout— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
@Review_Eagle Interesting but over long presentation on decline in crime across Herts inc overnight but not key Part Night Lighting issue— @sandywalkington 01 October 2013
Mr Rhead concluded by saying: “There is a fear of crime, but crime levels have not increased broadly.
“Hertfordshire remains one of the safest counties to live and Hertfordshire Police remain one of the top performing constabularies.”
County-wide, criminal damage, assault, robbery and vehicle crime are all down.
Overnight crime has decreased year on year, from 3,194 to 2,256. Only Stevenage has bucked this trend, with one extra crime in 2012/13.
Crimes directly linked to Part Night Lighting which Mr Rhead is examining include burglary, theft from person, assault, criminal damage, public order.
Burglary overall is down from 346 to 168. However, in Watford it increased year on year, from 19, to 28, to 30 and then back down to ten this year.
We are now looking at a lot of data. http://t.co/6LBgmeheVF— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
Michael Rhead from the police said: "Nothing I am about to say is meant to cause any offence". Should be interesting. #HertsBlackout— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
Simon Brown from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “The conclusion we have drawn is that we have seen no impact." #HertsBlackout— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
Michael Rhead from the police has looked at recorded crime in four, six-month periods, from September to February, spanning 2009 to 2012.
Recorded crime has decreased year on year from 32,673 in 2009/10 to 25,526 in 2012/13.
Karl Edwards, East of England Ambulance Trust, said: “There have been no issues confirmed around Part Night Lighting causing any detriment to service times or finding patients addresses.”
Simon Brown from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We looked at calls attended, including fires and collisions, how long it takes for vehicles to attend and any anecdotal evidence.
“The conclusion we have drawn is that we have seen no impact. The number of calls has declined particularly the anti-social calls, bin fires and so on.
“There is no link between Part Night Lighting and an impact on our service.”
Michael Rhead from the police is up next.
@Observer_Owl what about all the midwives/loan workers etc whom have to leave their houses within the night on a call out #HertsBlackout— @XamandaXchowX 01 October 2013
Councillor Malcolm Cowan (pictured) said he knew of several people who leave their outside light on all night in response to Part Night Lighting.
Any political criticism of part-night lighting has been about aspects such as timings or location, rather than the broader scheme
After this short break we will hear from Karl Edwards from the ambulance trust, Simon Brown from the fire service and perhaps most interestingly, Michael Rhead from the police will tell us about crime and the perception of crime.
@Review_Eagle I agree with it in principle but its really scary when you're walking home at midnight & lights start going off around you!— @JL_Button 01 October 2013
Mostly hearing lamp-post anecdotes at the moment. There will be a short break in a minute and then a presentation by the ambulance trust.— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
Central Watford and Oxhey councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst (pictured) said residents near Waterfields Way in Watford are annoyed their streetlights are off, yet the main road is lit. Cars should just use their headlights, they claim.
@Adam_WatfordObs @Observer_Owl be careful about the whole LED is the saviour idea…Specification is key, there are SO many lies out there— @polyphant 01 October 2013
@Observer_Owl used to walk to work at 3am in pitch black, was dangerous. Joke was that street lights were on when I walked home around noon!— @bfas88 01 October 2013
@Observer_Owl I think 2am is a better switch off time but I have a torch & would recommend such a purchase!! It has many uses! 👍🔦— @Sarahheartscake 01 October 2013
Councillor Joynes has criticised the publicity of the scheme, and said one of her residents did not realise he’d need a torch for his walk home from work and fell over.
Callowland Leggatts ward councillor Anne Joynes is asking about whether LED lights would save the council any money.
Callowland Leggatts ward councillor Anne Joynes
Mark Burrows said that although on a-roads where the lamps are bright and high wattage, LED units would take five to six years to pay for themselves. However, on smaller, dimmer roads it would take much longer.
The report concludes there are no road safety concerns in connection with the scheme. #HertsBlackout— @Adam_WatfordObs 01 October 2013
@Review_Eagle I agree with mike^,don't see what all the fuss is about?Looks like people are frightened of the dark #HertsBlackOut— @acengineer737 01 October 2013
@Observer_Owl in the snow it was awful, council didn't grit side roads, turned the lights off, would've been easy to crash #hertsblackout— @Jameswylie88 01 October 2013
@Observer_Owl Its terrible, it has lead to me goin in peoples houses, gardens, green houses (on the way back from the pub ;-) #HertsBlackout— @lewistunny 01 October 2013
@Observer_Owl my hubby had to walk from s.oxhey to northwood in pitch dark for early shifts, and home after nights too,was damn dangerous— @cazvernon 01 October 2013
The report concludes there are no road safety concerns in connection with the scheme.
However, only one of these claims was on a road affected by the scheme.
We are now hearing about road traffic collisions recorded between midnight to 6am, when the lights are off, which represent six percent of the annual total.
The figures are compared to a five year period before the implementation of PNL
Of the county’s 77 divisions, 29 have reported a higher frequency of personal injury claims.
Two divisions, in Dacorum and Broxbourne, have experienced an increase by 94 percent and 230 percent respectively.
@Observer_Owl So by making life more difficult and dangerous for residents they cut 1% off their highway budget? #bravo #hertsblackout— @goldenhornet 01 October 2013
@Review_Eagle I like it but would prefer a 1am switch off for when I'm coming home late— @mike_1727 01 October 2013
A trial in Welwyn Garden City revealed 74 percent of lights could be turned off under the scheme. Every individual light in the district was then surveyed.
A plan was then put into consultation with the county councillor, district police chief inspector, the community safety partnership, and road safety team.
The project was then was then rolled out. It came in under budget, costing £3.75million rather than £4.56million. It has saved 31 million units of electricity, which would have cost £1.08million. Carbon emission has dropped to 17,000 tonnes.
Burglaries in my neighbourhood rocketed after street lighting blackout. Break-ins stopped after they were switched back on #HertsBlackout— @MikeWaltersMGM 01 October 2013
Mark Burrows, Part Night Lighting project manager, said: "Other authorities have simply turned off lights at random whereas HCC developed exception criteria, including town centres, alleyways and footpaths, subways and small villages."
As well as the Part Night Lighting Scheme, the council also discussed simply turning the lights off, but this was considered too extreme and expensive. Other ideas included controllable dimming and LED lighting.
Mark Burrows, Part Night Lighting project manager, is talking about the development and implementation of the scheme.
He said: “HCC is one of the biggest lighting authorities in the county, consuming 42 million units of electricity, producing 23 tonnes of carbon, and costing £6 million a year in maintenance.”
At County Hall for inquiry into Part Night Lighting streetlighting programme which is concern to so many - expect more heat than light— @sandywalkington 01 October 2013
The council has 141,110 highways lights in the county, 115,673 of which are lamp-posts. The others are signs, bollards, and subway lights.
Part Night Lighting has reduced the greenhouse gas emissions by 15.3 percent.
Peter Simpson, senior asset manager: “The cost of energy is only going to go up, and that is a major risk for any authority.”
Street lighting is 10 percent of the council’s highways budget, and 40 percent of that is the cost of energy. Part Night Lighting has reduced this by 26 percent.
Peter Simpson, senior asset manager, is setting out the key reasons behind the scheme, including saving money, protecting the environment, and reducing the council’s carbon footprint.
The committee must decide if Part Night Lighting has delivered benefits as intended, and what impact there has been on road safety, criminality and night time safety, and what alternatives are there.
First up is a talk on the background and rationale of Part Night Lighting, including alternatives considered, costs and savings, and an analysis of public views to date.
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