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Goodbye Streetlights

I like streetlights. When I was little I liked to climb them. Now I have one outside my bedroom window, and although it can be quite annoying when I'm going to sleep, it's a useful tool to alert me to the cat pulling the curtains down in the middle of the night. It's also handy for helping me find my keys when I get home at night, for seeing who just pulled up outside my house, and for those who walk past, to safely guide them to the bus stop, the local shop, or their front door.

Sadly, many of us will be losing our streetlights in an attempt to reduce local council spending. The decision lies with local councils as to whether they stay on or not, and many local councils will be kindly leaving public lighting as it is and looking for other ways to save money. I checked out the website of Derbyshire County Council to see what's going on in my county.

  • Derbyshire County Council manages 89,000 streetlights.
  • Rising energy costs mean that the running costs are rising to around £2.9 million.
  • 40,000 lights will be turned off between midnight and 5.30am.
  • 900 lights will be switched off permanently.

Some high risk areas were identified, and these are the areas where the lights will stay on:

  • Some main traffic routes.
  • Town centers.
  • Areas with a high traffic accident or crime rate.
  • Areas with sheltered housing or homes for vulnerable people.
  • 24hr emergency sites - hospitals, nursing homes etc.
  • Pedestrian crossings, subways and enclosed pathways.
  • Roads with roundabouts, central islands, chicanes, speed humps etc.

So what does this leave? The many rural villages of Derbyshire of course. The country roads, the little towns with little roads and sharp bends. Places that already have poor access to shops and amenities. I wouldn't mind a clearer view of the night sky, and anyone who knows me or reads my blogs knows that I'm all for saving energy. But not at the cost of our personal safety. The roads are only getting busier, we're staying out of the house later as we struggle with long hours and having a life, and to top it off, local police forces are being reduced. Is this really the best time to turn off street lights? And is there really no better way?

What else could be done?

  • Invest in LED Streetlights - Yes it means paying more initially but they'd save loads of money in the long run. They use very little energy, and they rarely need replacing.
  • Just switch off every other streetlight - there's normally one on each side of the road anyway!
  • Check out this article on Bat Friendly Lights. This could be a viable option for some pathways, whether bats use them or not.
  • Give residents their own security lighting. PIR Lights on the front wall would make residents feel safer, and also be helpful to pedestrians wandering around in the dark.
  • Turn off some of the lights in town centers, especially on week nights. You can't even tell when the sun's gone down on my local high street - and I'm quite sure that no one lives on it.
  • Dim streetlights - although this is unlikely to be cost effective unless paired with energy saving lamps.
  • In Dörentrup in Germany, villagers turn on streetlights with their mobile phones. They ring a free phone number, enter the lights unique code, turning the light on instantly, and it will switch itself off after fifteen minutes.
  • Residents could be given control over individual streetlights outside their home via an app or switch.
Imagine walking down this road in the dark...

Although local councils have held public meetings about turning off street lights, not everyone can attend. Council representatives should personally visit local people to be sure that everyones views are heard. I've not received a single communication about street lights in Derbyshire - and when I looked on the council website - the opinion poll closed a long time ago! All councils are also quick to retort that they have never been legally required to provide us with street lighting. In that case, I can't wait to start planning next years holiday - I should be able to go somewhere fantastic with the massive reduction of my council tax! Or maybe it will increase as our smaller emergency services work harder fighting increased crime rates and dealing with more accidents. Next year is looking quite grim now...

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