Frequently asked questions about street lighting
This document provides answers to common questions we are asked, sometimes with reference to the Freedom of Information Act
Questions about the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract
Updated March 2015
- Q. What is a PFI?
- Q. Is a PFI the best way to fund this?
- Q. Does the project help save energy and reduce carbon emissions?
- Q. Have you thought about using solar power as an alternative?
- Q. If new, more efficient technologies are developed in the future, is there an opportunity to change the lighting?
- Q. Are the new lights brighter / dimmer / a different colour to the ones they’re replacing?
- Q. How do you decide where they’re located?
- Q. Will dimming the lights in certain areas increase crime?
- Q.Who do I contact if there’s a problem with a street light in my area?
- Q. How will the contractor be accountable for the work carried out?
- Q. I live in a rural area with no street lights – will there be new lights soon?
- Q. What happens at the end of the contract?
- Q. How can I find out more about the project and how it affects me?
- Q. How do I get a light shield fitted on my new street light?
- Q. How do I get a column removed?
A Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is a partnership between the public and private sectors. PFIs are used to help fund big projects such as new schools, hospitals and roads. Local authorities change from being the owners and operators of assets to purchasers of services.
Unlike traditional procurement the public sector does not buy the assets but pays for their use, together with associated services. Capital investment in the assets is made by the private sector which recovers its costs over a long contract period .
The Government helps by providing PFI ‘credits’. In the South Coast Streetlighting PFI, a private sector contractor has been given responsibility for designing, installing and operating the streetlighting service until the end of the contract in 2035.
PFI credits are a measure of the private sector investment which will be supported by central government. Issuing a PFI credit is a promise that PFI grant (money paid by central government to local authorities) can be claimed once the project is operational, and the level of PFI credits determines the amount of grant.
Without a PFI there would not be enough funding to carry out such a large scale replacement and improvement programme. It allows us to invest in the latest technology to save energy and cut carbon emissions.
A PFI also allows the risk to be shared between the public and private sectors.
The equipment used is more efficient and better directed, so that it lights the roads and pavements and not the night sky. Improved control equipment helps reduce wasted or misdirected light.
Carbon emissions have been reduced through the introduction of remote lighting management, which has the ability to change lighting times and levels. Faults can be automatically registered, there is no more need for staff driving around looking for problems.
Solar powered street lights are currently not cost effective. They are also visually intrusive; don’t provide a reliable source of light throughout the night and are easily vandalised or stolen. Another drawback is they are not suitable for high power lights, as they need large back up batteries. As such this is not yet proven technology.
Q. If new, more efficient technologies are developed in the future, is there an opportunity to change the lighting?
The service started early in 2010 and innovation is encouraged. The contractor has set aside funding to enable emerging technology to be incorporated in their installations.
Most of the new lights in residential areas are a “white” light rather than the older “yellow” lights people were used to. For some people these will appear brighter as they use a greater range of the visible light spectrum. However, because the lights are now better controlled, this does reduce light spillage into other areas and so can make the street scene itself appear darker.
In line with the design standards, new or replacement lighting columns will be sensitively placed on boundaries wherever possible or where they cause the least intrusion. We will try our best but some designs will be limited by the available electrical supply, the position of trees or other street signs.
All lights are being dimmed to reduce carbon emissions but safety is a priority. However, there is no definitive research to prove that reducing light levels leads to an increase in crime.
Following the first five years of the contract, when all the lighting is being replaced or upgraded, the next 20 years will focus on maintaining and operating the system. This includes Hampshire County Council’s monitoring team keeping a check on project delivery and operations.
There are no plans at present to install lighting in currently unlit locations
At the end of the contract maintenance of all street lights reverts back to the County Council.
There are several ways to find out more information. Details of the project are published on these web pages.
Any enquires regarding the PFI can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call the County Council on 0300 555 1388.