Up to 25,000 street lights in Leeds - more than 1 in 4 of the total - could be switched off as council bosses look to slash the city’s energy bill.
More than 3,700 of Leeds’s 92,000 street lights have already been converted to switch off at midnight and back on at around 5.30am.
And now council bosses are working to turn off a further 1,800 lights this year.
The expansion plan comes despite the authority receiving 130 complaints and enquiries from the public about the issue in the year from March 2016 to April 2017.
Leeds City Council’s cabinet will discuss the proposals at its monthly meeting tomorrow. A report prepared for the decision-making Executive Board ahead of the meeting says that a further expansion of the scheme could potentially save up to £300,000 a year. “In order to achieve additional savings in the region of £300,00 per annum for example, a further 25,000 street lights would require conversion to part-night operation, which will see more widespread unlit areas between midnight and 5.30am,” it says.
The report adds the number of lights switched off in Leeds is still “relatively low” and insists Leeds’s approach has been “cautious”.
It claims there is “no evidence that the measures taken so far have had any adverse effect on crime or road accidents in Leeds”. And it stresses that a national study of 62 local authorities that have undertaken “similar or more extensive measures” also shows “no evidence of adverse effects”.
Leeds’s switch-off programme started in 2013 and has cost the taxpayer £159,800 so far. It has saved £136,000 a year, the council says. A further £50,000 is expected to be saved this year from the rollout.
Campaigners today said the expansion would raise renewed “concerns”.
Jamie Ali, Community Officer at Leeds University Union, said: “Research shows that street-lighting does help people to feel safer so we do worry that a reduction in lighting will result in higher concerns about personal safety amongst students. We will be advising people to stick to well-lit routes where possible and to take advantage of our free Night Bus service and our partnership with a local taxi provider to get home safely. The proposed cut to street-lighting is another example of a reduction in public spending that impacts on the quality of our local services and has a damaging effect on people living here.”
A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “Leeds City Council has successfully converted over 3,700 street lights to switch off at midnight and back on at 5.30am.
“This change improves energy efficiency and reduces costs, and is only carried out after careful examination of a range of criteria to ensure any concerns about safety and crime are taken into account.
“There has been no demonstrable increase in crime or road safety in Leeds, which echoes evidence from a study of 62 local authorities who have done similar or more extensive changes.
“Estimated energy cost savings so far from the changes, which have predominantly taken place in residential areas, are around £136,000 each year.
“Leeds City Council’s executive board are looking at proposals to publicly consult on further energy saving measures which the council can implement in the light of the success of the changes already delivered. Our lighting stock is relatively new and in good condition, but we are not standing still and are committed also to ensuring that we remain in a position to be flexible to changes in both technology and demand.”