Wiltshire’s misguided switch off

August 08, 2012 12:14 PM

Wiltshire Council is pressing ahead with plans to switch off or dim 20,000 street lights despite similar schemes in the region proving unpopular with residents—and costly to local taxpayers. ‘Much of financial and carbon savings proposed by the council could be achieved this way,’ says one local councillor. A Wiltshire Council spokesman seeks to reassure locals by saying that community lighting will stay on where there are CCTV systems, in town centres, and in areas where crime is a problem. The proposal is out to public consultation until September 30th.

But such an endeavour seems doomed to failure and will end up costing more than it saves. Earlier this year, Swindon Borough Council was forced to abandon its plans to turn off 433 of its street lights. The trial was supposed to save £20,000 in energy bills but ending up costing £30,000 to reverse the decision. Council leader Rod Bluh was forced into an embarrassing u-turn.

‘It was not just to save money,’ backtracked the council leader, ‘it was about the environmental aspect as well. Why are we, in the days of scarce energy, running a lot of lights that perhaps weren’t needed?’ But any Green value to be got from the experiment was overwhelmed by popular discontent.

‘If something is universally unpopular and there is no public support we do listen to residents,’ admitted Bluh. ‘As councillors, we do have to look at their views as well as the corporate interests. On balance we don’t think this is important enough to cause the upset it seems to be causing.’

Local residents were concerned about public safety. ‘A few weeks ago in Bristol,’ said one elderly gentleman, ‘a young soldier lad got killed [in a traffic accident] because the lights were off in that area.’ Opposition councillors agreed. ‘Firstly we felt there were safety issues that could crop up in areas unlit due to the switching off of street lights,’ said one. ‘Secondly we felt that it was a basic right of every council-taxpayer to have street lights lighting up their town when dark.’

Hmmm, surely Wiltshire Council could learn something from Swindon and save some taxpayers’ money by not ploughing on regardless with its community lighting black-out? Councils should look to other ways to make savings—such as cutting back on their inflated wages and overflowing pension pots!Wiltshire Council is pressing ahead with plans to switch off or dim 20,000 street lights despite similar schemes in the region proving unpopular with residents—and costly to local taxpayers. ‘Much of financial and carbon savings proposed by the council could be achieved this way,’ says one local councillor. A Wiltshire Council spokesman seeks to reassure locals by saying that community lighting will stay on where there are CCTV systems, in town centres, and in areas where crime is a problem. The proposal is out to public consultation until September 30th.

But such an endeavour seems doomed to failure and will end up costing more than it saves. Earlier this year, Swindon Borough Council was forced to abandon its plans to turn off 433 of its street lights. The trial was supposed to save £20,000 in energy bills but ending up costing £30,000 to reverse the decision. Council leader Rod Bluh was forced into an embarrassing u-turn.

‘It was not just to save money,’ backtracked the council leader, ‘it was about the environmental aspect as well. Why are we, in the days of scarce energy, running a lot of lights that perhaps weren’t needed?’ But any Green value to be got from the experiment was overwhelmed by popular discontent.

‘If something is universally unpopular and there is no public support we do listen to residents,’ admitted Bluh. ‘As councillors, we do have to look at their views as well as the corporate interests. On balance we don’t think this is important enough to cause the upset it seems to be causing.’

Local residents were concerned about public safety. ‘A few weeks ago in Bristol,’ said one elderly gentleman, ‘a young soldier lad got killed [in a traffic accident] because the lights were off in that area.’ Opposition councillors agreed. ‘Firstly we felt there were safety issues that could crop up in areas unlit due to the switching off of street lights,’ said one. ‘Secondly we felt that it was a basic right of every council-taxpayer to have street lights lighting up their town when dark.’

Hmmm, surely Wiltshire Council could learn something from Swindon and save some taxpayers’ money by not ploughing on regardless with its community lighting black-out? Councils should look to other ways to make savings—such as cutting back on their inflated wages and overflowing pension pots!

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