Bristol street lights set to be dimmed under major upgrade to save energy and money

Bristol City Council says talks would be held with Bristol Sight Loss Council and Bristol Women’s Voice if plans were approved

Street lights in Bristol could be dimmed in some areas as part of plans to upgrade old existing lights and introduce a remote control system - saving £1.8m a year in energy and maintenance costs.

The new LED lights would also provide a more focused beam, meaning they could lead to darker areas between lighting columns, acknowledges a report on the proposal set for approval at Bristol City Council’s cabinet meeting next week.

But it would also mean a reduction in light pollution into people’s homes and gardens, while the street lighting network would provide controls to brighten lights for events or where there has been an accident or incident, the report states.

The upgrade would cost £12 million and would follow a similar scheme introduced by Ealing Council which saves enough energy to power up to 5,000 homes a year. However, the council there has faced opposition after dimming lights.

Street lighting could be dimmed in certain areas in Bristol as part of plans to upgrade the system

An impact assessment attached to the council report says no in-depth work has been carried out on the dimming of the lights in Bristol, and ‘will only take place once the project gets the green light’.

It adds that talks will be held with groups such as Bristol Sight Loss Council, Bristol Older People’s Forum and Bristol Women’s Voice to discuss the potential impact.

It states: “Whilst we have not identified any significant negative impact from the proposal at this stage we are aware that any dimming of street lighting may have a disproportionate impact on some people on the basis of their protected characteristics – in terms of reduced visibility and safety (including feeling safe).

“LED luminaries tend to provide a more focused beam or cone of light onto the pavement and road surface than existing street light, which could also lead to darker areas between lighting columns.”

It continues: “Overall we believe the proposal can be justified on the basis that dimming the units is required because it impacts heavily on the energy saving and is essential to the project saving money and paying back.”

The council’s Quality of Life 2020/21 survey found 63% of people in Bristol felt safe outdoors after dark - this dipped to 45% in Lawrence Hill.

In mitigation, the council’s impact assessment states that the control system could adjust dimming levels to suit individual areas.

In total, 29,000 old street lights would be replaced with the new LED lanterns as part of the move, which if approved next week would get underway from November this year and would l be completed over three years.

As well as money saved through energy savings, the new lights would reduce repair and maintenance costs.

Councillor Don Alexander, cabinet member for transport, said: “Making an upfront investment to speed up our switch over to LED street lighting is a simple way to make energy savings of up to 50 per cent, which is good news for the environment and will dramatically reduce our energy bills.

“This is an exciting project that uses smart city technology, which will make sure our street lighting network is responsive, reliable and fit for purpose for years to come.”

The proposal will be decided on at Bristol City Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday (April 5).