Letter: Why are street lights turned off?

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I’m perplexed. I’m trying to determine to whom to complain about turning off street lights at night.

I came home at 11.45 the other evening and the street was blacked out. My son sometimes goes to work at 5am and the street is blacked out. What’s the point of installing street lights if they’re off more than on?

So I call Mid-Sussex Council and, no, it isn’t them. They connect me with West Sussex County Council. It’s theirs but decisions about which lights are on and not rest with our (sic) Parish Council. So I’m passed back to Mid-Sussex who tells me we have no Parish Council but it’s probably the Town Council. I call the Town Council and they tell me the street lighting is contracted to Southern Electric but terms and conditions are set by West Sussex Council, could they connect me through to West Sussex? Oh dear. Here we go.

I had two questions: 1) Why are they switched off during dark at all? 2) Why couldn’t the contractor fix proximity detectors to light them up as someone approaches? The second question was answered quickly – the contractors explained (wait for it) that it would defeat the Council’s policy of keeping the streets dark at night!

Question 1) appears simple: you save electricity. Indeed. But let’s see. The lampposts were funded from general taxation. I guestimate that from deciding to buy, through procurement to getting them lit up probably cost around £10,000 each. (No great stretch of imagination when you consider the well-publicised list price of those ill-fated parking meters.) Meanwhile turning off the light probably saves about 240watt/hours per night per lamp. At the rates the Council pays (again just guessing but they pay vastly less for electricity than households) that should be less than 2.5p per lamp per night. That equates to just under £10 per year.

In other words it will take around 1000 years to recoup the cost of the lamppost. Even if I’m 50% out, it would still take 500 years. Ok, the Council can argue the amounts came out of different budgets – but they’re still tax that I paid.

Honestly, even Lewis Carroll couldn’t come up with a scheme as strange as installing lamps to light up the darkness, then turn them off when it gets dark. And I still haven’t got a name to whom I can address a complaint!

Ivor Stuart Colwill

Wickham Close