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Part-night street lighting frequently asked questions

Can the Council legally turn off the street lights?

Yes. There is no statutory requirement on local authorities in the UK to provide street lighting. The Highways Act empowers local authorities to light roads but does not place a duty to do so. However, the Council does have a duty to ensure that lighting units are kept in safe condition.


What time will the lights be turned off?

Lights in selected roads will begin to be switched off between midnight and 5am from December 2016.    


What are other Councils doing?

Many other authorities have introduced similar part night lighting schemes successfully, without adverse effects and have made significant savings. With rising energy costs and reduced budgets these types of changes to street lighting are becoming more common.


What are you going to do with the money saved – will my Council Tax reduce?

No, there will not be a reduction in Council Tax as a result of this programme.  There are increasing pressures on the Council’s funding and as with most public sector organisations, we continually need to reduce costs.  Implementing a Part Night Lighting programme is one of many measures being considered to contribute to those savings. 

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What about Crime?

Lights will not be switched off roads where Surrey Police raise concerns about the potential effect on crime.  A study published in 2015 by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) found no link between street lights being dimmed or switched off and any increase in road accidents or crime. 


What about Road Safety?

Lights will not be switched off on busy roads with high traffic volumes.  In other roads, lights will not be switched off if the Council’s Road Safety Team or Surrey Police raise concerns about the potential impact on Road Safety.  The Lanterns study described above found no link between street lights being dimmed or switched off and any increase in road accidents or crime. 


Why can’t you turn off every other light instead?

Turning off every other light would only generate 50% of the CO2 and cost savings.  Whilst not always possible, lighting systems are designed to provide consistent levels of light in a road.  Turning off every other light is not only likely to create pockets of darkness but also make it harder for the eyes to adjust and see clearly between lights.

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Why can’t you dim the lights instead?

The vast majority of the lights are dimmed from 2200-0530 each night.  Lights in residential areas are dimmed by 50% power and those on Traffic Routes by 25%.  Lights on Traffic Routes are not planned to be switched off.  The Council has carried out tests by dimming lights by more than 50% and found they do not function properly and start flickering.


Why not convert the lights to LED as these use far less energy?

When our street lighting contract was awarded in 2009, LED technology was not proven on street lights at the time and the Council invested in a Central Management System allowing us to dim the lights and switch them off if we wanted to.  The Council has recently investigated the costs of replacing the street lights with LED as they could reduce energy consumption and CO2 by up to 2/3 however the cost of installing LED lanterns would exceed the energy saved over the next 10 years or so.  However the cost of LED is reducing and so we will continue to review this.


Can’t street lights be powered by solar panels?

There are challenges with using solar power for street lights as the daylight is much shorter in the winter with the lights on for much longer making it difficult to generate and store the energy needed to guarantee the lights full operation from dusk to dawn.  The cost of the equipment needed along with the size of battery and panels would not be outweighed by the energy saved.

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Could the lighting have new technology such as motion sensing?

Motion-sensing switches, such as those which operate security lights, have been considered, but most of the street lighting in use today requires a warm-up period of several minutes to reach full output and is not suitable for this type of switching. There are also concerns about potential uneven lighting for drivers and disturbance for residents.


Why didn't the Council just consult residents on affected roads?

All road users in Surrey are affected by street lighting so we wanted to make sure that everyone had their chance to have a say. This is why we advertised the consultation as widely as possible across our website, social media and in all 58 libraries in Surrey.


Can I request a review of the decision in my street?

Yes. The Council recognises that some residents may wish to request a review of the decision to include (or exclude) some street lights in the Part Night Lighting programme. We have therefore developed a process to enable residents to request a review of the Part Night Lighting in their street. More information can be found on our review process webpage.

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