Plan to replace Leeds’s street lights ‘too late’

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Disagreements broke out during a meeting between senior politicians in Leeds over £30m plans to replace 86,000 street lights in the city.

Plans to introduce new LED street lights, which the authority believes could save taxpayers more than £3m a year, went before council decision-makers yesterday.

A report claims it will cost around £25m to replace the city’s lights with LED bulbs, while further “smart city” sensors would be installed over four years at a cost of around £5m.

The Leeds City Council executive board meeting heard that the LED lights would use less electricity, and could be dimmed without losing visibility.

Coun Richard Lewis, the authority’s portfolio holder for transport and planning, commented on the council’s trial of switching lights off in certain areas during the night. He said: “We did a huge amount of work for the part-night switch-off, but in terms of public perception, this was not a preferred option for further roll-out across the city.

“We have reached the point where LED conversion has become more attractive in terms of payback.

“When this scheme comes in we will be able to dim every light from a central point. The technology will move on as we speak, so the technology we implement will probably be more advanced than what is on the paper.

“You can dim them way down and the perception is that they are on full.”

As part of the plans, a “smart lighting” system would also be introduced to monitor gulleys in a bid to improve flood defences and measure road temperatures to aid gritting.

Leader of Leeds City Council’s Conservatives Coun Andrew Carter added: “It’s to be broadly welcomed – the options it gives us in terms of other issues are very significant indeed. It’s a real opportunity.”

But Leeds Liberal Democrats leader Coun Stewart Golton started by accusing the council of acting too late, claiming his party suggested the switch to LED lights years ago.

He said: “It is four years too late. If you introduced it when we advocated it you would have saved more.

“In this case, the initial investment is great, but there is the part about the smart city technology. Some see it as an opportunity, but I see it as a threat. The whole point of having street lights is having public safety. I don’t think it is a progressive step forward to be able to dim the lights centrally.”

The council hopes to begin replacing the lights in summer 2019.