Plan for £5m Leeds light scheme is criticised

A GROUP of politicians have claimed plans to create a 'smart' street lighting system in Leeds are nothing more than a '£5m dimmer switch'.

Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 8:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 8:59 am

Plans to spend around £5m on “smart city” sensors for 86,000 newly-installed LED street lights were agreed by council chiefs last month.

The council claims the sensors could help save electricity by dimming the LED lights without losing visibility. But Liberal Democrat members of Leeds City Council believe the money should instead be spent on keeping streets brightly lit during the night, so that citizens feel safer.

Coun Stewart Golton, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrats group, referred to the plans as a “£5m dimmer switch”. His colleague, Coun Carmel Harrison (Lib Dem), added: “This is a dim move and personally I am very angry that despite saving money with LEDs, Labour are going to spend £5 million of our money to have the ability to make every street darker whenever they want.

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“This is bad news for the elderly, women shift workers and public transport users. Burglars on the other hand will be rubbing their hands.”

Leeds City Council’s Labour group has been contacted for a comment. Responding to the Liberal Democrats’ concerns at a full council meeting earlier this month, deputy leader of the authority Coun Debra Coupar said: “While I appreciate there may be reduced fear of crime by some in well-lit streets, I am not aware of any evidence that suggests that streets that are lit after dark are any safer than those that are not.”

Council chiefs were told last month that the “smart lighting” system could help monitor gulleys in a bid to improve flood defences and measure road temperatures to aid gritting.

The authority believes the LEDs would result in annual energy savings of around region of £2.85m and maintenance 
savings of around £570,000 a year.

The work follows a move from the council in 2013 to switch off 3,700 of its street lights for part of the night in a bid to save money. The council hopes to begin replacing the lights in Summer 2019.

Meanwhile, a rising amount of work to conserve and improve a national park is going ahead despite a continuing squeeze on its central government funding and mounting budget risks, a meeting has heard.

The North York Moors National Park Authority’s finance committee were told while it was proposed to cut the amount of grants it gives for work such as conservation next year, the move masked the increasing spending and efforts to fulfil its main statutory purposes.

Members were told while pressure was again rising around its core government funding, its income  from sources such as car parking fees and planning charges were helping the authority to provide match-funding from external sources.

The meeting heard the cutbacks would not mean an decrease in activity on the ground, with the reverse being seen in areas such as tree planting.

Officers said the authority was also facing growing financial risks, with an unknown level of Government funding following March 2020 and possible “radical impacts” from Brexit, legal costs and match-funding requirements.