Wirral streetlight flip-flop: From darkness to LEDs

Nothing gets the British critics going quite like a political 'U-turn.' So they're having a field day in the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, where the red-faced council will likely soon cave in to the outraged public by keeping the streetlights on after all.

Like many localities across the UK, Wirral - the Merseyside borough of 320,000 people - had decided to save money by turning off some of its lights.

But as the Liverpool Echo reported, the authority 'faced a furious backlash.' The Council is expected to reverse its decision later this week.

Not only have residents fought the move, but so have opposition leaders.

'Senior Lib Dem Stuart Kelly was among those who led the calls for the council leave the lights on,' the paper reported. Councillor Kelly said he 'welcomes the U-turn,' and lambasted the Council for taking so long to make it.

Don't expect the controversy to end there. The Council is expected to approve the installation of energy efficient LED streetlights, which could eventually elicit just as much criticism.

While LEDs save money on electricity bills, residents in other municipalities have vociferously complained about them.

Objections have ranged from LEDs' possible harmful health effects to their narrow beam focus which leaves swathes of areas dangerously in the dark and subject to crime. Residents in localites including Trafford, Hounslow, Hastings, Croydon and Lewisham among others have all spoken out against them.

Wirral Councillor Stuart Whittingham underscored their benefits, noting that LEDs will save money over the long term and will lend themselves to a digital central management system that will make it easier to identify faults (never mind that LED bulbs are not supposed to fail for 20 years or so!).

'Investing this money now would save us money in the long term as we will have a better and more efficient lighting network with lower carbon emissions,' he said.

A 17-page streetlighting strategy recommends replacing 7,000 of the most inefficient sodium lamps, and notes that the central management system could easily dim lights from 10pm until 6am.  The report says it would all cost about £4.3 million 'and would save £100,000 in 2015/16 and £390,000 in 2016/17.'

While the LED plan certainly has the momentum, it could only be a matter of time before the papers start writing Wirral Streetlighting U-turn, Installment 2. Critics, rejoice!

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Photo is from Benkid77 via Wikimedia

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Want to sound out on streetlighting? Come to November's LuxLive2014 in London, where the lively sessions will include the great street lighting debate and many more.