At North Cambridge’s Area Committee on Thursday the 23rd of January 2009 a member of the public asked about street lighting. Rupert Moss-Eccardt the County Councillor for Arbury replied. He told the meting that there is a program in Cambridgeshire to introduce brighter lights which use less electricity than the current street lights. He said that these new lights would be dimmed in the early hours of the morning, but gave an assurance that the new dim level of light will be brighter than what we currently have.
The details of the Cambridgeshire scheme were not given, but a before and after photograph on this page shows the results which have been seen in Redbridge, UK using a system from Phillips. While I think the dimming will need to be used carefully, overall I think these new types of lights are a fantastic improvement on what we currently have in the county.
I think the green spaces in Cambridge, many of which are very poorly lit at the moment, would benefit from these new bright lights. Crime and fear of crime are expected to be reduced by the new scheme, and road safety ought be improved.
44,000 out of Cambridgeshire’s 55,000 street lights are to be replaced in the £57,000,000 project. That’s £1,295 per light (1).
Cambridgeshire county council are not paying for the scheme now, it is to be built using borrowed money from the private sector under a “PFI” contract – which means in the long term we will all be paying over the odds for the scheme, as we’re have to pay both for the lights and provide the private companies with their profits. Central government provides significant incentives to local authorities to make them rationalise such reckless behaviour; from the point of view of the local authority, because the PFI schemes attract additional government funding they are the economically the best option.
Cambridgeshire’s contract has been negotiated together with Northamptonshire which, unlike Cambridgeshire, hosts detailed information on the Eastern Shire Counties Partnership – Street Lighting PFI Project. This states that the scheme is a twenty five year project, to start in April 2010, and says:
The PFI contract will allow the County Council to consider ways to save energy, including:
- using lower wattage bulbs that provide more efficient ‘white light’,
- using the minimum appropriate lighting level,
- varying lighting levels through the night,
- adjusting the times at which the lights switch on and off.
If there is a problem with light shining through a bedroom window for instance, then the specific street light can be fitted with a filter to cut out light in that specific direction.
Cllr Moss-Eccardt also talked of problems of birds singing during the night if the lights were left on bright, presumably sharing a concern which had been discussed by County Councillors.