Seeing the light

The York Council is reviewing its street lighting polices this week.

A report from officials says that there are still some contradictions between good lighting standards and the preference of some for a subdued City centre.

The design of lamppost units has certainly been a source of conflict in the historic core for several decades, so sensitivity is needed.

This should fall short of reintroducing gas lighting, artificial smog and Hansom Cabs.

Safety is also a, key concern particularly near the rivers with too many deaths in recent years attributable to people falling in. There is a particularly dangerous area near Lendal bridge where the steps down to the Esplanade are poorly lit. It doesn’t seem to be within the wit and wisdom of experts to find an acceptable solution to problems like this.

But it is not just Conservation Areas which are causing a conflict in priorities. The Councils new policies favour siting lampposts to the rear of a footpath (rather than the kerb edge). This is a sensible move as most moving traffic on the carriageways these days enjoys good vehicle lighting. Few pedestrians routinely carry a torch with them at night.

The policy may also reduce the number of lampposts damaged in road traffic accidents.

The Council proposes to hedge its bets when trees are overgrowing footpaths. Rather than lop the trees, the Council will continue to site lampposts on the kerb edge – providing a challenging chicane for those with poor eyesight and unexpected variety for canines.

Street lighting standards in much of the City have been improved in recent years. Many regard the LED units being fitted as a step in the right direct although occasionally there seem to be patches of darkness in some streets.

The LED lamps are carefully focused to avoid “light pollution”, are more reliable and use less electricity.

In a survey undertaken this month in the Chapelfields estate 91% of residents said street lighting was either “Good” or “Satisfactory” (marginally up from the 90% recorded a year earlier).

So that’s one public service which seems to be getting better.

Street lights – no wonder we are in the dark

York Council fails to fix 67% of faults within target time

Street lighting repair stats

Street lighting repair stats

The York Councils streetlight repair performance slipped to an all time low last December with only 18% of faults being repaired within target times.

Performance had been  dropping since routine “scouting” for faults was abandoned.

Even when faults have been reported by members of the public there have been unacceptable delays.

The Council has the following targets for attending to faults:

  • Urgent faults will be attended and either repaired or made safe within 2 hours
  • Normal faults will be attended and either repaired or made safe within 4 working days
  • When a defect has been made safe and further works are required, we aim to have the repairs carried out within 20 working days.  When there is an issue with the electricity supply, and we have to work with a utility company to resolve, the national standard allows 35 working days for the repairs to be completed

The performance probably hides an even more serious situation with few Councillors apparently now routinely reporting lighting faults in their wards.

In Westfield LibDem Councillor Andrew Waller is the exception having reported (and re-reported) dozens of faults this winter. However, members of the public have become disheartened by the lack of response.

The situation has deteriorated over the last 12 months.

  • In February 2014 only 20% of fault repairs missed target.
  • This had escalated to 67% in February this year.

Labour Councillors blame aging street lighting stock for the problems but conveniently forget that they spent over £1 million on new lamps in 2012. The number of faults reported in January 2015 was actually less than is the corresponding month the previous year.

The reel issue related to the lack of adequate staffing levels and an enforceable service level agreement with repair contractors.

In the battle against crime and to improve road safety, good street lighting should be a higher priority than putting up more 20 mph signs.