Electrically powered street lighting has brought a sense of wellbeing and freedom from risk or danger to the United Kingdom for 125 years. Today we have more than 7.5 million lampposts with every single one requiring continual maintenance and increased spending.
It has been said that about 20% of the United Kingdoms electrical energy is used in order to power artificial lighting, and a great deal of this energy is wasted due to inefficient, out of date and over-powered lighting sources, Ross. (2009). Governments should save energy by curbing street lighting. Available: http://www.energy-savingnews.com/2009/03/governments-should-save-energy-by-curbing-street-lighting/. Last accessed 03 Dec 2009.
The following dissertation proposal centres on one of the many local government authorities that have introduced policies and decisions on a reduction in street lighting to effect cost savings to council budgets and CO2 emissions for environmental welfare. One local authority in particular has been chosen for the benefit of the report, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (BGCBC).
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BGCBC made the recent decision to switch off large areas of urban street lighting during the hours between midnight and dawn and thus mitigate the impact on the local authority's budgetary constraints. Before the full implementation of the programme BGCBC released the following statement on their web site:
An energy-saving scheme to programme street lights so they switch-off from midnight to dawn is underway in Blaenau Gwent.
Just over 6,000 street lights will now switch off at 12am. Another 8,000 will remain on because they are not fitted with modern, remote control time switches.
Street lights in town centres, other areas covered by CCTV, at roundabouts, traffic lights and pedestrian crossings stay on all night.
Blaenau Gwent Council decided reluctantly in March 2009 that it needed to make savings of £180,000 a year on the street lights energy bills. The scheme was part of a package of essential savings needed to balance the Council's annual budget - badly hit by the low financial settlement from the Welsh Assembly Government and last year's big rises in energy costs.
Aims of the Proposed Dissertation
The basis of this proposal is to ascertain whether the decision was valid and if due consideration was given to several important issues, these being:
Quality of service
Cost effectiveness - realistic and significant cost saving
Valid risk assessment
Real impact on environmental matters
Review of Factual Information
Artificial lighting of our communities has been established for so long that we all take it for granted, it's only when the lights go out that people tend to take notice of their surroundings. Under a temporary power cut situation folk generally don't have any issues because at some point in the near future order will be restored, but what if the blackout is planned?
There have been numerous studies and reports raised concerning the topic of artificial lighting i.e. street lighting and there is a great deal of data available from various agencies that publish this information. This proposal will look further into some of the published data.
If a local authority is considering a move to reduce street lighting it should be for three reasons:
the amount of lighting is not required in that it adds no benefit to the community and that it may be a cause of excessive light pollution
to switch the lights off would make significant reduction in the carbon footprint
to save a considerable amount of money.
Ken Weekes, Street Lighting Manager (2009). In the report to the Leader and Members of the Housing and Regeneration Committee, states that the purpose of the report is "to provide further detail and proposals for energy saving measures associated with the switching off of street lighting within the County Borough Council to mitigate the impact and help reduce the financial risk of recent utility contract price rises and budget pressures." Furthermore the report also states that the reason for recommendation is "to reduce street lighting energy costs in line with Corporate budget savings."
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Thus, it can be ascertained that the intentions of BGCBC are purely for financial reasons, which opens up a new debate of council ethics and a commitment to greener policies.
For a local authority to implement a reduction in services such as a programme of blanket street lighting switch offs, for such an initiative to be a success it must satisfy four criteria, these being:
Save money - by managing and reducing energy bills
Meet regulation - preparing for incoming regulation and legislation
Raising profile - be amongst the top performing councils
Lead by example - influencing business and the community
Carbon Trust (2008). Introducing Local Authority Carbon Management. London: Carbon Trust. p01.
BGCBC obviously have full intentions to save money, but has due consideration to the further criteria been carried out? To meet incoming regulation and legislation would require investment; investment into new technology, energy efficiency and management. Such investment would contradict the entire proposal. The authority may see itself to be raising the profile, it may even gain temporary status as a top performing council in the street lighting cost bracket, but could the decision be only beneficial in the short term?
"Whilst home owners increasingly resort to energy-efficient light bulbs to lower their energy costs, and businesses are able to invest in intelligent energy-saving lighting, the British government seems relatively slothful in its' attempts to improve energy efficiency." Ross. (2009). Governments should save energy by curbing street lighting. Available: http://www.energy-savingnews.com/2009/03/governments-should-save-energy-by-curbing-street-lighting/.
For BGCBC to lead by example should it not be promoting investment into energy efficiency in its own domain? An initial outlay for better and more efficient lighting would have greater long term advantages through cost and reductions in C02 emissions.
Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) (2008). Policy Brief: Improving the energy performance of street lighting and traffic signals. London: Crown Copyright. P1.
However, the council have stated that they received a low financial settlement from the WAG and need to save money now, the extra expense of investment into new more energy efficient lighting technology may simply not be an option because there is nothing in the coffers to support it? Maybe the payback period is far beyond the scope of any future projected budgets? These questions can only be answered following a study of the literature and information available.
Effects on Public Safety and Crime
One great concern by residents of the borough is that surely switching off street lights would be an open invitation for crime and violence. Numerous studies have been carried out to investigate the links between lighting and crime. BGCBC says that it has conducted risk assessments and sought consultation with the Gwent Police, "Accident records, traffic flow data, anti social behaviour hotspots and crime location data have all been reviewed in line with areas identified under the proposals and appropriate Risk Assessments undertaken. Consultation on these proposals has been undertaken with Community Safety, Police, Risk Management Group."
The motoring organisation, The Automobile Association (AA) believes that there would be more benefit in local authorities switching off lighting within their own premises at night and that street lighting makes it safer for both pedestrians and drivers. Furthermore the AA also believes the lighting to be a deterrent to crime. Commenting on street light switch offs, AA boss, Edmund King, said: "Turning off street lights to save money or reduce CO2 may backfire in terms of increased accidents and crime. In the dark drivers' reactions tend to be slower and stopping distances longer. Street lighting can reduce the risk of crashes and their severity." Furthermore:
"The public are in favour of street lighting as a way of improving road safety. Cyclists and pedestrians are more at risk on unlit streets. Local authorities should consider more environmentally friendly lighting rather than putting us all in the dark. In terms of reducing CO2 AA research shows that local authorities will have more effect improving traffic flow than turning off the lights."
The former Minister for Transport, Rosie Winterton told the AA that "Experience shows that better street lighting helps improve road safety, as well as reducing crime and the fear of crime. It also helps create happier and healthier local communities by promoting social inclusion and more sustainable patterns of transport by encouraging people to cycle and walk."
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AA (2008). Councils should switch off their lights rather than street lights. Available: http://www.theaa.com/public_affairs/news/switching-off-street-lights.html.
As an insurance provider it may be perceived that the AA or indeed any similar organisations may hold the same reservations regarding the subject which would entice the question of whether as the AA market itself as a public service organisation have they introduced an amount of sensationalism to the topic, if the general pubic think it's a bad idea then who are the AA to disagree? For public opinion, we would all be more comfortable with the lights left on regardless of the statistics. The Home Office has conducted research on crime associated with street lighting and results vary.
"Good street lighting contributes to the quality of urban life. Improvements to street lighting can help to reduce the public's fear of crime, but that they make less of a difference to the prevailing level of crime than many people would expect. Offenders are not necessarily much influenced by lighting conditions. When deciding whether to commit a crime they are likely to take into account a variety of considerations, rather than any single factor, such as lighting."
Malcolm Ramsey (1991). The Effect of Better Street Lighting on Crime and Fear: A Review. London: Crown Copyright. p24.
Huge savings potential
"Huge saving potentials utilizing new technology. Outdated installations increase energy costs and new technology represents a large cost cutting potential in the rehabilitation of outdoor lighting installations. With new installations there is great saving potential when employing new enriching adaptive lighting techniques which are possible with today's high technology."
Guide for energy efficient street lighting installations (2007, p3), E-Street
The E-Street partners are an organisation specifically set up to expand the market for better and more energy efficient equipment for use within the street lighting systems of Europe. The partnership consists of more than a dozen European nations (not including the United Kingdom) that are convinced that the future for improved lighting technology will result in considerable financial savings and prosperity. There are many organisations such as this that can provide advice and assistance on the study and implementation of energy efficient lighting schemes and some can assist in reviewing and assessing energy savings be that in replacement, refurbishment or even better management of existing street lighting infrastructure. Wigan council for example has embraced energy efficiency within its street lighting operation and savings have been identified by simple measures such as switching off lights in sign posts during the daylight hours, resulting in reduced energy consumption as well as reducing the need to replace components far less often. (http://www.wigan.gov.uk/Services/GettingAbout/StreetLighting/EnergyEfficientLighting.htm).
The Northern Ireland Assembly has conducted an in depth study into street lighting energy efficiency. The country currently foots a bill of eleven million pounds on powering its quarter of a million street lights. Given these facts action must be taken and the NIA are looking at several money and energy saving options. Furthermore, the NIA has outlined several best practice studies. Maybe BGCBC should take a leaf out of the NIA's book and conduct a similar more in depth analysis of the boroughs street lighting dilemma. The report available from BGCBC is somewhat brief in comparison to reports conducted by other United Kingdom authorities who have not only considered significant cost savings, but also the prospect of further technological development. The NIA research paper is a good example of research into several options other than just turning off the lights. Further reading is available from: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/io/research/2009/3009.pdf.
Further studies have been carried out by companies such as energy giant E.on, who in conjunction with Loughborough University have endeavoured to deliver innovative solutions to current carbon unfriendly equipment.
"Progressive and innovative design is essential to meeting a community's needs. Our integration of lighting designers, academic institutions and leading manufacturers means that we are at the centre of the latest technology, enabling us to deliver world class, energy efficient lighting. Together, we'll work with you to understand your needs and to deliver better and safer street lighting." Dave Morgan, Sustainable Energy Solutions, E.on, 2009.
There is a great deal of information, advice and help available for BGCBC to consider.
Research Objective and Hypothesis
Objectives of the Proposal
A significant objective of the proposed study is to prove that for a local authority to introduce any reductions in street lighting whilst gaining public approval, especially in that the general public believe that they have a given right to adequate lighting, must make serious consideration to further issues. These issues being:
Energy Efficient Technology
Effects on Crime
Effects on Public Safety
Adequate Risk Assessment
All of these factors combined influence public opinion and after all it is the public whose votes and taxes maintain the very fabric of the community.
For BGCBC part they have simply produced and implemented a very basic programme, however there is much evidence available to say that this decision is flawed. The literature review carried out, details several theories from different organisations and the list could be almost endless given the time and words to accomplish it, however for the benefit of the proposal a sample has been used to emphasise the point.
Given this initial available literature the hypothesis statement for this proposal shall be:
Public opinion on crime and safety justifiably outweighs Blaenau Gwent County Borough Councils decision to reduce street lighting for purely financial reasons.
Approaches to Research
Even though there are obvious differences between quantitative analysis and qualitative analysis there also exists several similarities, examples of which include the following points:
Both are concerned with data reduction
Both are concerned with answering research questions
Both are concerned with relating data analysis to the research literature
Both are concerned with variation
Both seek to ensure that deliberate distortion does nor occur
Bryman (2008: p395)
It is with these points in mind that the research methods will be determined.
"All, or virtually all, research projects involve, to a greater or lesser extent, the use and analysis of documents. Researchers are expected to read, understand and critically analyse the writings of others, whether fellow researchers, practitioners or policy-makers", Loraine Blaxter, Christina Hughes, Malcolm Tight (2006: 167).
A large amount of the information to be collated for the proposed dissertation will consist of extensive research from the internet, books, archived newspaper articles and any available published text. Furthermore, gathering information that covers technological improvements in lighting and lighting efficiency will consist of extensive study into further secondary sources to identify areas of cost, spend and payback. Research by direct contact methods to organisations such as the Police and the Highways Agency will be required to provide factual information. What would result from such research would essentially be proven factual information i.e. facts, figures and statistics. This would therefore suggest that the methodological approach to be strong quantitative analysis.
Surveying Public Opinion
It has been stated that public opinion has formed a large part for the reasoning behind this proposal, and given that the hypothesis statement is: 'Public opinion on crime and safety justifiably outweighs Blaenau Gwent County Borough Councils decision to reduce street lighting for purely financial reasons', research into public opinion is a prerequisite to the dissertation submission. To add emphasis to the dissertation's purpose it is vital to analyse people's sentiments. In other words, for the dissertation to hold water a valid survey of the public must be accomplished.
Methodology Rationale and Conclusion
What the proposal suggests is that the local authority's decision and policy regarding street lighting switch offs is incorrect in that it has resulted in conflict with its populous. The primary research will be by means of survey of a percentage of the people within the borough and the amount of individuals to be surveyed to be decided following further research into exact effected areas and the quantity of domiciles and their occupants. The intended route of the survey will be by means of interview, though a lengthy process its value outweighs that of a postal survey in that the affected areas as well as any unaffected areas can be suitably covered with guaranteed results and responses. Further primary research will be the collation of the statistical data provided by the various agencies with interest in the topic, e.g. the Police, the Carbon Trust, DEFRA and of course BGCBC.
The secondary research to support the study will be the extensive reading of journals, internet reports, books, archived newspaper articles and available published text. Many local authorities have considered and implemented similar programmes to BGCBC and many have published their findings accordingly, this information is free and easy to obtain. Further secondary study will be on green issues and effects on the environment that BGCBC have failed to consider, or if they did consider it they did not convey this to the public. There is also the lighting industry to investigate, these are the people with an interest whether the lights stay as they are or if considerable investment in upgraded technology is required, these are the people who seemingly cannot loose and do their opinions count as research?
To conclude, looking at the hypothesis and the research information available it can be said that to encounter this topic the research matter is greatly varied and diverse. From that, a route of research analysis must be recommended for the dissertation to move on. Given the similarities between quantitative and qualitative research, it may be interpreted that an amount of the proposed research be in the qualitative direction and in some ways will be. However, in terms of proportion of research type there is a clear winner or superior analysis for the study to dwell on. There is much to take into account to justifiably achieve the outcome of answering the hypothesis statement, for example: regarding costs, crime statistics, accidents, energy usage, carbon footprint etc, and furthermore, the research into public opinion alone weights it heavily coupled with further research available from similar situations.
The intended process can be illustrated with the simple Mind Map shown in Figure 1:
Figure 1 - Simple Mind Map
The Mind Map shown in Figure 1 above, albeit a very basic illustration shows that the methodology uses a quantitative research route. Therefore, to conclude, for the benefit of the potential dissertation, this study proposal recommends that though elements of qualitative research may exist the study essentially requires a quantitative analysis approach.
Referencing and Bibliography
Alan Bryman 2008, Social Research Methods, Published By: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0-19-920295-9
Gordon Rugg & Marian Petre 2007, A Gentle Guide to Research Methods, Published By: McGraw Hill. ISBN: 978-0-335-21927
Loraine Blaxter, Christina Hughes, Malcolm Tight 2006, How to Research, Published By: Open University Press, McGraw Hill Education. ISBN: 0-335-21746X
Dilanthi Amaratunga, David Baldry, Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton, 2002, Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment: application of "mixed'' research approach, Published by: School of Construction and Property Management, The University of Salford. Work Study Volume 51, Number 1, 2002, pp. 17- 31
BGCBCLighting - Street Lights Switch Off Statement
Available: http://www.blaenau-gwent.gov.uk/4145.asp. Last Accessed 10 Dec 2009
Report to the Leader and Members of the Housing and Regeneration Committee, BGCBC.
Available: http://www.blaenau-gwent.gov.uk/documents/Documents_Environment/StreetLightingReport.pdf . Last accessed 10 Dec 2009.
Ross. (2009). Governments should save energy by curbing street lighting. Available: http://www.energy-savingnews.com/2009/03/governments-should-save-energy-by-curbing-street-lighting/. Last accessed 03 Dec 2009.
Introducing Local Authority Carbon Management. Carbon Trust London (2008). Available: Directly from The Carbon Trust.
Policy Brief: Improving the energy performance of street lighting and traffic signals: Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) (2008). London: Crown Copyright. P1.
Councils should switch off their lights rather than street lights: AA (2008). Available: http://www.theaa.com/public_affairs/news/switching-off-street-lights.html. Last accessed 08 Dec 2009.
Guide for energy efficient street lighting installations (2007, p3), E-Street
Energy Efficiency in Street Lighting 2009, Northern Ireland Assembly
Low Carbon Street Lighting, E.on 2009
Available: http://www.eonenergy.com/In-Business/Sustainable-Energy/Public+Sector/Street+Lighting/Low+Carbon+Street+Lighting.htm. Last Accessed 11 Dec 2009
Energy efficient lighting, Wigan Council.
Available: http://www.wigan.gov.uk/Services/GettingAbout/StreetLighting/EnergyEfficientLighting.htm. Last Accessed 11 Dec 2009
The Effect of Better Street Lighting on Crime and Fear: A Review. Malcolm Ramsey (1991). London: Crown Copyright.
Road lighting. Performance requirements, BS EN 13201-2:2003
The Research Question and Hypothesis: Ryerson University
Writing your Dissertation: University of Southampton