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Part night lighting - frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions about part night lighting.

Why we've switched to part-night lighting

The funding we receive from central government has been reduced, resulting in a gap between the services we used to provide and the money we now have to deliver them, even though the locally set council tax remains the same.

The full council of elected members for Dorset County Council decided to reduce the energy budget for our street lighting by 20% to help meet this gap.

What savings will this make?

Initial savings of at least £300,000 per year will increase year on year with expected rises in energy costs. Based on even a modest 3% annual increase this measure will save over £10 Million in the next 25 years.

Who made the decision to turn lights off?

Street lighting is not a statutory duty and the only way this 20% budget reduction could be achieved is by turning lights off. Members have agreed to retain all night lighting in essential and high use areas such as CCTV and high crime areas, town centres or high speed roads but to then reduce the service where it is not essential - namely in all our residential roads.

Which lights will be switched off?

Nearly all lights in quiet urban and rural roads will be turned off although some lights in these areas will stay on where safety or statutory requirements cannot be met by other means. The times we have chosen to switch off the lights coincide with the lowest levels of highway use so most residents may not notice the reduction in service.

Why are residential roads turned off?

Although residents may be concerned about minor accidents or property security, any accident or incident is unlikely to have a severe outcome, due to low traffic speeds with very little (if any) pedestrian use after midnight. Officers of Dorset County Council cannot amend the policy set by members and so cannot return all night lighting in these roads.

Why can't every other light be left on?

20% of the total street lighting energy budget equates to all 30,000 of our smaller residential lights being switched off for at least 5.5 hours each night. It is not possible to simply dim these lights, leave some of these lights on, reduce the time lights are switched off or turn them back on unless the situation clearly meets the policy criteria.

At what times will the lights now operate?

From dusk until approximately midnight (GMT) and then back on again from around 5:30am (GMT) until dawn - if it is still dark. In summer time the lights still operate on GMT so will then go off at around 1:00am (BST) and back on again at 6:30am (BST). These times are only approximate, individual lights will operate earlier or later by up to 30 minutes. 

How are the lights controlled?

Each light is fitted with an individual sensor which switches off half way between dusk and dawn, so this will vary from clock midnight by up to 30 minutes at some points in the year. When this device is first switched on it calibrates for a few nights then starts to switch on only from dusk until midnight, switching back on again at 5:30am (GMT) if necessary. Interruptions to the electricity supply or some maintenance activities can reset this process, so the light will operate all night for a few days until the timing is again set. Each sensor is factory set with the switch off timings and no communication with, or adjustment of, the sensor is possible.

Which lights will remain on?

Lights in Town Centres, on designated traffic routes, roundabouts and roads with vertical speed humps will remain lit all night. Some areas with higher crime levels, CCTV installations or all night use (near police stations, hospitals) may remain lit all night.

I am likely to be out after midnight, what am I meant to do?

Anyone using these roads when the lights are switched off needs to make their own assessment of the possible risks, taking their own appropriate actions to mitigate those risks down to a level acceptable to them.

I don't like the reduced service, how do I get my light turned back on?

All of Dorset's Town and Parish Councils were informed of the change and asked to identify any significant local safety concerns, as was Dorset Police on their operational requirements. An assessment was then made of each road before it was deemed to be included by the policy, so it is unlikely that your road meets the policy criteria for all night lighting to be provided.

Why wasn't I consulted or sent a written notification of the change?

Town, Parish Councils and Dorset Police were invited to comment on the change but the decisions to reduce the service and the areas which will be excluded were made by elected members of the County Council. It would cost a significant amount of money to write to every individual household and instead local media statements were made to communicate the change to residents.

If I become the victim of crime or have an accident can I claim against the Council?

There is no statutory duty for local authorities in the UK to provide public lighting and you are unlikely to be able to claim as a result of this service reduction.

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