Is the Term the Switch Off Debate Correct?

16 March 2012

It is clear from a number of replies to my recent letter that perhaps this is incorrect as it seems to have focussed the attention purely on part night lighting and not the wider picture of what is happening in a number of Authorities. The aim is to discuss the various energy and carbon reduction approached being undertaken in order to best inform and provide our members with the information they need.

I am pleased that we are starting to receive information through from a number of members; unfortunately some of this has been through anonymous comment via the web site or e-mail addresses that cannot identify the sender which we cannot use nor reply too. Other members have requested that their details be held in confidence which we respect and as such we can provide limited comment to the membership regarding what they have to say. It is of course preferable for us to be able to fully reference what is happening across the UK and advise the membership.

A number of comments have said that the ILP should not judge but provide the information to help members make informed decisions. This is the purpose of this exercise and I would particularly like to thank James Everley of Power Data Associates who has put together a short paper which looks at the actual effect on energy tariffs if an Authority looks to change from all night to part night lighting. This is the first time we have had real data from energy suppliers giving an indication of what will happen with energy rates. I would also like to thank Andy Sanders who has set up a Local authority switch off discussion forum on LinkedIn under the ILP Group, please take a look at this and contribute.

Allan Howard
ILP President

So what have members been saying?

The following are extracts from correspondence received; all are traceable back to the originator and are comments from those concerned and may not reflect the ILP’s own views.

Essex County Council

Have applied a part night lighting approach to rural areas / villages through a risk / consultation based approach which included the development of an exception criteria.

  • Essex, part night lighting in rural villages, full consultation and review process
  • Exception criteria (all part night unless)
  • Major traffic routes
  • Conflict areas
  • Town centre (CCTV, crime, transport hubs)
  • Remote alleyways

Essex CC are now rolling out a two year CMS programme to cover their whole street lighting asset.


Have undertaken a trial switch off of 2,000 lights within an area, the trial is due to report soon.

  • Savings up to £100k per annum
  • Costs £600k including road safety works, upgrading signs and white lines to confirm to unlit highway requirements
  • Current maintenance costs cc £25k per annum
  • The Coroner investigating a fatality in this area directly linked the lack of lighting with the accident. He said, 'the driver had no chance to see the lady crossing the road without any street lights operating’.

City of London

Firstly, congratulations on, for the first time, the ILP actually being proactive on such a debate, regardless of which side you support. The City of London, have already taken steps to 'review' the whole question of lighting levels, and how appropriate they are to current needs and circumstances.

I'm sure we are not the only Authority which has seen substantial changes in the demography and social use of our City Centres over the last 25 years, and we have chosen, rather than a knee jerk reaction to dim/switch off, to step back and look at 'why and how' we light the streets and establish the ultimate purpose of the lighting in the 21st century. From this information we can plan for a better, more efficient lighting installations, which fulfil the needs and requirements of our Rate Payers, to the long term benefit of all.

Personally I believe too many Authorities, including unfortunately some who have been somewhat profligate in other areas of expenditure over the last few years, are taking the 'easy' option of cutting standards and withdrawing services of street lighting, for short term cost cutting, without looking at ways to improve the service and reduce running costs on a long term basis, with reduced carbon and sustainable objectives.

South Ayrshire

A committee report has been presented to their Leadership Panel (Committee) last August. informing the Panel of the outcome of the trial variable road lighting scheme in Holmston Road, Ayr, and to seek approval to introduce variable lighting on main traffic urban routes where appropriate as standard practice.


Have provided a statement from Chief Constable Andy Bliss with regard to the association in criminal activity and the part night lighting programme currently being rolled out across Hertfordshire (approx 40,000 units to date) this can be viewed at:


Re-lit over past 5 years under the street lighting PFI

  • Vehicle collisions and damage reduced by 50%
  • Vehicle crime reduced by 62%
  • Night time accidents down 31% with fatalities down from 9 to 0

Midlands Authority

Local authorities that switch off lights are those authorities that have do not have a strong street lighting officer who can stand up to the politicians and directors. Hence, those in Authorities who are trialling these switch offs will not come forward to debate.

If lights are switched off then all the electricity companies will do is increase the consumption at GSP. I have asked the electricity company to give me a break down of the charges if I dim and/or switch off from 12 midnight to 5am to evaluate the savings, actual savings. They refused.

Why am I so interested in this debate?

As news comes through about switching off street lights, my council’s members and public ask the question why are we not doing what other Authorities are doing? Then the press comes and gives it a different spin and it leaves for me to justify and write all these reports giving reason on why others are doing what they are doing etc….

The point of this email is to highlight some things about the switch of that no one wants to debate. What does it really save? I can prove to you that it does not save anything at all by switching off! – may be some peanuts!

You can only save money if you remove all street lights – thus cutting off energy companies totally. If the LA has one street light that uses energy, then energy companies will charge them exorbitantly.

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes have applied a number of strategies to their lighting, one luminaire on each double arm column on the dual carriageways turned off, lighting only locally at roundabouts and junctions turning the linking lighting off. There have since been two pedestrian fatalities on these roads the first of which goes to the coroners court bin April.

Milton Keynes have now employed a competent lighting manager to deliver their service.

Northern Authority Lighting Manager

I find myself compelled to enter the recent discussions regarding Part Night Lighting (PNL) and dimming.

Recent discussions with the UMSO highlight that they do not consider each individual LA street Lighting stock when considering re-shaping of the load it is also dependent upon the number of lighting units to which part night lighting is implemented across the whole UMSO distribution area. i.e one LA implementing part night lighting to 50% of its units has no effect whilst 50% of LA’s implementing PNL to 50% of units there would be a 25% impact on that period of the cost profile across 100% of the LA’s. So energy price increases related to PNL and dimming will impact on all LA’s whether or not they implement the strategy.

At a time when many LA choose not to increase council tax, these costs need to be mitigated in some way and there are many difficult decisions to be made. In order to contain costs and reduce carbon the LA Engineer is compelled to consider PNL and dimming, particularly when compounded by an ever aging lighting stock. Consider this – For every LED lantern purchased which has the potential to reduce energy and carbon of one unit by 50% the LA Engineer can purchase at least 6 PNL photo-electric controls which would reduce the energy and carbon of 6 units by 40%, does that look attractive? [Editorial note, please see the document kindly provided by James Everley]

I would agree that PNL and Dimming are not suitable for every location far from it but then neither is LED, which appears to be held as a panacea to all ills by many. The changes in lifetime, temperature control and reliability mesmerising and quality and consistency of products are still problematic.

LA’s do need to consider new technologies alongside these measures to provide a balanced solution to both energy and carbon reduction and whilst LED has it’s part to play what about the recent introduction of Induction Lighting? Where is the guidance from ILP on that? Have I missed a recent publication? Or do I resort to the usual and gather what information I can find from manufacturers and talking to other Engineers and make my judgement from there.

The role of the ILP should not be to judge, more to provide the tools which designers, specifiers and LA Engineers can use to make informed judgements on what to present to the decision makers to provide the long term solution to the ever moving problem of providing ‘the right light in the right place at the right time’.

Midlands Authority Lighting Manager

I read your article with interest and I do look forward to the "debate".

However, I do take exception to the following paragraph you used in your mail shot

We know of many instances where lighting engineers are being proactive and politically astute and are proving their case - for example, not switching off and finding new revenue sources to fund alternative energy saving solutions, as opposed to following the often politically driven line.

This suggests that those who are introducing part night lighting or switching off some lighting are not politically astute or pro-active - a suggestion I take exception to. The ILP itself uses the line - the right light, in the right place at the right time. This can be "no light". To guide elected members and the public to understand the risk assessment process and the reasons behind the need to change or not change in a given situation takes political and professional awareness and skill. You are trying to slant the debate.

The ILP should be a broad church. There is a world of difference between central London and a small parish in leafy, with everything else in between. The ILP should be supporting all its engineers (sorry professionals) and providing them with the tools required to introduce appropriate lighting in their area.