Search This Blog

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Switch off the street lights at night

Contact me at

Date: Sat, 9 Jun 2007 16:21:41 +0100 (BST)From: Kevin Lister

Subject: Street lights



In response to articles that I have written in the Nailsworth News under the title "Kevs Climate Column" a letter was sent in recently suggesting that we could reduce our CO2 emissions by switching off street lighting say after 11:00 pm.

I personally think that this is a great idea and would also allow us to appreciate the pleasures again of looking at the night sky with out the current levels of light pollution.

As you may have picked up in the press recently, the seriousness of global warming is increasing virtually by the day. The government's draft climate change bill which is currently out for public consultation is a grossly inadequate response to the magnitude of the problem that faces us. The fundamental reality is that we must all cut back on consumption as aggressively as possible. It is therefore imperative that we act in all ways that we can.

Additionally, actions always speak louder than words, and switching off the street lights is a very public way of saying that as a community we care.

Thank you for considering this proposal,

Kevin Lister


Anonymous said...

I don't think you've really thought that one through. Have a look at the Institute of Lighting Engineers notes, especially those about the cost of streetlighting and its energy consumption. The cost of installing timers (instead of simple photoelectric cells) to control more than 6 million street lamps in this country alone would be astronomical, and I suspect that burglars and vandals would clap their hands with glee. I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments about light pollution, but I think the advantages of lighting for security carry more weight.

Philip said...

I have looked into this also and while the comments above do have some merit it is just not true to say this is not an important way to tackle climate change and for that matter light pollution - see my blog for 6th September and 6th October 2006:

Essex have already undertaken public consultation. The plans in Essex are set to save the council a whopping £1million a year from its £3.8million electricity bill for street lighting and reduce the 19,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. The fact that the response was very positive from the public augurs well for Gloucestershire.

Kevin Lister said...

Thanks for the comments on this proposal.

In terms of costs, a 16A electronic timer can be bought for less that £10 and a qualified electrician should be able to install one in a junction box providing power for several street lights in a couple of minutes. The cost of installation is therefore something that should be managable.

On the arguement of safety, when ever I am out walking my dog in the early hours of the morning I never see any one, so it seems to me to be an unnecessary financial and environmental expence to keep lights running all night for the occassional benefit of a lone dog walker.

I would doubt even the stength of the burglar arguement. Most burglars operate in the early hours of the morning, not because it is dark, but because there is no body around. The fact that there are no street lights may actually turn out to have nothing to do with changing the risk. Also, as every town in the country has street lights, there is no comparison towns to draw experience from and to robustly make the arguement that the risk is greater. It might turn out that with no street lights burgalries may go down as houses are not lit up for inspection.

Normally when I walk my dog late at night I go up Tetbury lane. There are no street lights here. To the best of my knoweldge they do not suffer any more burgalries here than eleswhere in Nailsworth.

The Institute of Lighting Engineers report estimates that there are 6.2 million street lights in the country and each one consumes 328 units of electricity per year. This will result in the emissions of 878 million kgs of CO2 per year which will require over 300 million trees to absorb.

Anonymous said...

I hereby admit to the most widespread crime of the common commentator: I failed to check my sources and data before opening my laptop. The ILE document I quoted earlier states categorically that "In residential areas there is very strong evidence that providing light significantly reduces crime." Having read your response to my comments, I went in search of this "very strong evidence." What I found was a Home Office document issued by the Crime Prevention Unit. Although it is getting on in years, this survey - which admittedly approaches the issue from the opposite direction, by studying the crime-reduction effect of augmenting streetlighting rather than the increase in crime consequent upon a reduction in the level of streetlighting - finds none of the ILE's "very strong evidence." The summary reads as follows:

There is a widely held belief that the improvement of street lighting will reduce both
crime and fear of crime. Improved visibility, it is thought, will increase the
possibilities for identification and apprehension of criminals and hence deter the
perpetration of criminal acts, while also providing reassurance to those people who
are fearful for personal safety in public places. However, there is little firm evidence
to support these beliefs. This research aims to fill that gap.
In 1985 the London Borough of Wandsworth commenced a programme to re-light
the complete borough to a very high standard, partly with the aim of crime
prevention. This research involved compilation of a database containing details
of the dates, times and locations of over 100,000 crimes reported to the police in
the Battersea and Tooting police divisional areas. This has been matched to the
dates and areas where 3500 new street lights were installed, focussing mainly on
data for one year before and one year after the introduction of new street lighting
in 39 separate zones.
No evidence could be found to support the hypothesis that improved street lighting
reduces reported crime. Although some areas and some crime types did show
reductions in night-time crime relative to the daylight control, the dominant overall
pattern, from which this study draws its authority, was of no significant change.
A secondary part of the study assessed the attitudes and behaviour of residents
and their experience of crime not reported to the police. Social surveys were
conducted with a panel of residents in a re-lit area and an adjacent control area
before and after re-lighting. The perceived safety of women walking alone after
dark in the re-lit area was improved, but few other effects were statistically
significant. No change in un-reported crime, harassment or travel behaviour could
be detected. Nevertheless the reaction of residents to the re-lighting scheme was
overwhelmingly favourable; it is without doubt a popular measure.
It was concluded that although street lighting was welcomed by the public and
provided reassurance to some people who were fearful in their use of public space,
the area-wide introduction of new street lighting did not reduce reported crime.

You can now count on my vote for switching off street lights at night. And I might be able to get to sleep a little earlier if the one that presently floodlights my bedroom were switched off at 11 o'clock.

Kevin Lister said...

Thank you firedog for your comments. After I sent the last comment I went out for a walk with my dog up Tetbury lane which is not lit. It did occur to me that the reason people leap to your initial conclusion is that there is probably a primitive fear of the dark that we all share. While this was probably important when we lived in caves, it is less so now that all the wolves and other nocturnal beasts have been wiped out!!

Anonymous said...

A company called dial2open have launched web site called and have come up with a unique idea of operating street lights with a free phone call.
Have a Look,we think it is great.