No sign of change as controversial street light pilot scheme reaches halfway point

Stark contrast: an area with the old orange lights on the left and the new LED lights on the right.
Stark contrast: an area with the old orange lights on the left and the new LED lights on the right.

There is no sign of any u-turn on the controversial scheme to replace a large array of old sodium streetlights with LED alternatives, just as the scheme passes its halfway stage.

Around 8,000 lights have been replaced across the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area, with around 7,000 left to go in the £3 million switchover from old-style orange-coloured lights.

There had already been a strong counter-reaction to the lights scheme, with a paramilitary-linked group taking to the streets in one area to “reassure” residents with night-time patrols.

One of the News Letter’s sister papers the Portadown Times had asked the DRD two key questions:

1, Have you received many complaints and what action is being taken?

2, As a pilot scheme, what happens in this area and other areas, if it is found to be unsuccessful?

In addition, UKIP councillor David Jones said: “At UKIP we understand these LED lights are more environmentally friendly and cost less to run. We feel obliged to ask where will be the money savings if poles have to be altered or new ones fitted?

“Was a proper survey carried out prior to the introduction of the scheme and if so why were these problem not discovered? As the scheme continues unabated, when will these alterations be carried out?

“We are concerned the Craigavon area will be left with a street lighting system not fit for purpose and in fact potentially dangerous.”

These too were questions we put to the DRD.

A spokesperson for DRD said in response: “The Department is seeking to make best use of new technologies such as LED street lighting, which greatly reduce energy and maintenance costs.

“The pilot project in the Banbridge and Craigavon areas aims to light roads and footways to appropriate lighting levels.

“It is characteristic of LED street lights to provide very good control of light distribution onto the road surface and have noticeably less light spilling into the surrounding environment.

“This is efficient from a road lighting perspective and helps to reduce unwanted light pollution.

“DRD is aware that each time new types of street lighting have been introduced over the last 40 years, there usually are concerns expressed initially until the public becomes used to the new lighting systems.

“The change to LED street lighting is currently happening all over the world. In future, most street lighting will be LED, and the older orange lights will become obsolete as manufacturers move to the new energy efficient and long life LED alternatives.

“Any complaints received by the Department about the new LED lights will be assessed and, where appropriate, reasonable adjustments will be made to try to address the issues raised.”

Councillor Jones said: “The results of the scheme where it has been in action so far are disgraceful. We have received a great number of complaints, perhaps the highest number ever on any issue; but despite contact with the Lighting Division - nothing has changed.

“A request to come and speak to the ABC Council has so far not taken place.

“They have said in some instances the poles need readjusted or other work needs carried out. They have even commented the new lights will just take time to get used to.

“Amongst the complaints we have received, one was from a visually impaired gentleman who now is unable to leave his house in the dark for fear of falling down and injuring himself (or worse).

“The general complaint is that the new lights in their present state do not defuse the light to the surrounding areas. Concern is expressed at danger of falling, tripping on uneven footpaths.”