Councillor responds to social media criticism of street lighting plan

Street lights in Suffolk are to be replaced with LED lights. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils are changing and reducing street lighting - Credit: �Archant Photographic 2009

Councillors in Mid Suffolk have addressed fears expressed on social media over reduced street lighting plans, saying pedestrian safety will not be compromised.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils recently passed motions to change and reduce street lighting in the two districts to improve the impact on wildlife and humans.

That has prompted a wave of concerns on social media that people’s safety at night could be put at risk with reduced lighting.

Dr Dan Pratt, Green councillor for Mid Suffolk who put forward the motion, said he had recognised concerns but has moved to address fears that it would mean street lights being turned off in town centres.

He said: “We recognise the positive role lighting can play to improve the feeling of safety for pedestrians in towns and any changes would be in line with current standards, evidence, and with the support of our communities.

“It is the bright white LEDs that cause particular harm, not only because of their exceptional brightness and contribution to skyglow but due to the high levels of blue-light they emit.

“Where street lighting is needed, they can be time or motion sensor-controlled to come on when needed.

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“Colour filters can be used to help reduce the environmental impact of light pollution without compromising pedestrian safety.”

Dr Pratt said areas where lights were needed would continue to have them, but could have alternatives which did not emit the same levels of blue light.

The blue light can have impacts on hormones in people and display similar characteristics of regular laptop screen use.

Meanwhile for wildlife, the lights can have impacts on patterns around mating, migration and foraging on some animal species.

The motion proposes to reduce the intensity of street lights, use alternate types of LED with less blue light and in areas where it is appropriate, turn the lights off.

However, decisions on lights are set to be taken at a community level to ensure the right decisions are made locally.

That could utilise Suffolk County Council-trialled traffic-adaptive lights which uses radar to monitor traffic movement and reduce the light intensity accordingly.

Local author and entomologist Dr Ross Piper has backed the measures.

He said many insects were attracted to the blue light, and using filters or changing the light emitted could “enormously reduce the impact of artificial lighting on insects”.

He added: “Insects are declining at an alarming rate, which has enormous consequences for not only the larger animals that depend on them for food, but also the crucial services they provide, such as pollination.

“Light pollution is one factor that is contributing to the decline of insects. Nocturnal insects are drawn to artificial lights and interfere with their normal behaviour.”