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LED street lighting upgrade scheme

There are almost 29,000 streetlights on Swindon Borough Council's highway network. Energy costs have risen sharply in recent years, and are likely to continue to rise in the longer term. The annual cost for street lighting energy is currently over £1.3m, and with current budget restrictions, these costs are becoming increasingly unaffordable.

We are investing £7.2m to convert approximately 28,000 of the Council's street lighting to LED units over an 18-month period. We will also be undertaking some essential column replacements as part of the scheme. The upgrade is expected to deliver a substantial reduction in the amount of energy purchased and utilised by the Council, aiming for a 61% improvement, while also providing better lighting services for residents and saving approximately £800,000 per year.

We have listed some questions and answers about the project below. Regular updates will be given on the Council’s social media channels and via our Highways News newsletter.

In 2018-19, street lighting accounted for 3,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, which is more than half of the Council’s electricity-related emissions. Changing the lights will make a significant saving to those emissions

Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting is energy efficient and has reduced in price considerably in recent years. Prior to this upgrade, 18% of the Council's street lighting was LED lighting, with the majority being the older low pressure sodium (SOX) or high pressure sodium (SON) units. The SOX units are becoming obsolete and going out of production, and are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
LED lights use considerably less energy than the older SOX and SON units. A major advantage is that LED lights provide the opportunity to dim the lighting during off-peak periods to further reduce energy consumption.

The programme started in July 2020 starting with major routes in Penhill, Upper Stratton, Blunsdon, Highworth and Rodbourne Cheney. The programme is due to be completed by November 2021.

SSE are our delivering partners and will be carrying out this work which includes the implementation of a Central Management System (CMS) called PLANet. A CMS system provides remote control, monitoring and energy management of street lighting over a wireless interface. The benefits of using such system reduces maintenance costs, such as night scouting will no longer be needed, as the system will automatically report any faults through the system. It also has the capability to reduce the light output in certain areas if and when required.

Many of the existing lights are reaching the end of their life with many components becoming obsolete. There are also massive energy savings with the new LED lanterns, as well as savings on carbon footprint.

The cost of the project is estimated to be £9.7m which includes £2.5m for replacing lamps columns where necessary and it is expected that the cost of replacing the LED units will have a pay back of 5 years, but this could be substantially sooner depending on future energy costs.

Energy costs have been rising enormously in recent years and, with the other services the Council has to provide, the cost of energy for the street lighting is becoming increasingly unaffordable. The savings in energy costs will help pay for the new lighting, and the project will significantly reduce the Council’s carbon footprint.

No, savings from initiatives such as these are needed to maintain frontline services and continue to successfully deliver the Council’s priorities.

It is anticipated that the new units will last 20 to 25 years. The older lamps currently in use usually have to be changed every 3 to 6 years.

The conversion will be carried out in about 15 minutes in most locations with little disturbance and disruption as it is only the electrical equipment being changed. However, in a few cases it may be necessary to renew the lighting column, which will require excavation in the pavement to provide and connect the new column.

Parking may be impacted in order to gain access to the street lights but prior notice will be given when those streets will be upgraded.

Every effort will be made to ensure that roads remain open while the work is carried out. However, there may be very short periods when we need to control traffic to protect the safety of both the public and our workforce. If you need to access your property at any time during the works, please inform the on-site team at the earliest opportunity and suitable arrangements will be made. Pedestrian access will be maintained at all times.

As lighting is not being removed or turned off it was not considered necessary to hold public consultation regarding these proposals.

LED’s produce a whiter light than given off by old traditional lighting known as high and low pressure sodium which appear orange in colour. Colours become much more identifiable and objects more clear. Different colour temperatures are available; however, Swindon has chosen a warm white of 3000k.

All areas to be lit with new LED lights will be checked to ensure that the light levels achieved comply with the minimum standards of the relevant British Standards.

Some of the existing street lights use sodium which produces a light that appears orange in colour. LED lights produce a white light which makes it is easier to recognise colours, improving visibility for road users and pedestrians. Low pressure sodium lights were not energy efficient and consequently are going out of production. With the ending of the manufacture of the older orange lights and the safety advantages offered by white LED lights, it is neither possible nor beneficial to make like for like replacements with regard to colour of the light.

The purpose of street lighting is to ensure the Public Highway is lit to the appropriate standards. The lighting of private property is the responsibility of the homeowner or tenant.

The light produced from an LED lantern is far more directional than existing street lanterns.  We can control where it falls, directing it onto footways and carriageways where it is most needed, therefore, reducing light pollution into properties.

The existing lanterns are being replaced on a like for like basis and we do not intend to change or move any existing columns unless they are deemed to be unsafe.

In most cases it will be just the lantern which will be upgraded, and usually this will take around 15 minutes. Where other ancillary works or the street lighting columns as well as the lantern need to be replaced, this will take longer. Some electrical connections may have to be undertaken by the electricity company and it will be necessary for them to complete the works.

In most cases the conversion will be a quick operation done during the day. However, where columns have to be replaced some lights may be out of operation for a short period. Care will be taken to avoid creating large dark areas during implementation.

It is proposed to use LED units with what is known as a colour temperature of 3000k, which are often referred to as warm. Some other LED lights have a higher colour temperature of 4000k which some campaigners have had concerns about. The main units to be used for this project will be Axia 3 lights manufactured by Urbis Schreder. More bespoke lanterns will used in areas such as the town centre or conservation areas where lanterns can be replaced with the same or similar styles.

As LEDs produce a natural white light, this enables the human eye to see in colour and with improved peripheral vision. This should make your road look safer and help reduce crime and the fear of crime.

In some unavoidable situations lights may be left day burning for a few days, while the equipment is being updated. While we appreciate this appears counter-productive in a project to save energy, the Council will not pay any more for the additional energy used.

They are designed to have a long life span of around 20 to 25 years of near maintenance-free service. Unlike with conventional street lighting units, there is not the need for frequent lamp changes, which means there is reduced waste and unit attendance. This means:

  • reduced annual energy consumption required to keep street lights illuminated
  • reduced disposal of old lamps containing harmful mercury or other materials
  • reduced fuel used and the accompanying pollution to service lights
  • reduced potential for disruption on the highway network through lane closures or road works to maintain the lights
  • less natural resources and energy used to produce replacement lamps for maintenance
  • less fuel used to transport the lamps from the factory (most likely overseas), to the distributor, to the contractor, to the job site

Once the new streetlights are installed, their brightness is set at a default setting. It can take 7-10 days for the contractor and software supplier to update the streetlighting system. If the light is still probematic after this period has passed, you can report it via the Report a faulty streetlight or illuminated sign webpage.

Our contractor will be working in the streets listed below. On days where the weather conditions do not permit working at height, dates may vary slightly.

  • Oxford Road and the A420
    Great Western Way

Where it has been identified that columns need to be replaced, we will be replacing them throughout the LED upgrade scheme programme. The next batch of columns to be upgraded are in the following streets.
  • Amberley Close
  • Beech Avenue
  • Crossways Avenue
  • Eastville Road
  • Hillary Road
  • Kelmscott Road
  • Sunningdale Road
  • Tenzing Gardens
  • Limes Avenue
  • Linden Avenue
  • Malvern Road
  • Tulip Tree Close
  • Acacia Grove
  • Cadley Close
  • Cherry Tree Grove
  • Liddington Street
  • Maple Grove
  • Myrtle Gardens
  • Sycamore Grove
  • Bedwyn Close
  • Chestnut Avenue
  • Clive Parade (rear service road)
  • Headlands Grove
  • Jefferies Avenue
  • The Circle (rear of shops)
  • The Circle
  • Athena Avenue
  • Bright Street
  • Buller Street
  • Caulfield Road
  • Dores Court
  • Dores Road
  • Prow SSM109 FP
  • Wheeler Avenue
  • Whiteman Street
  • Kelvin Road
  • Beatrice Street
  • Florence Street
  • Kitchener Street
  • St Pauls Street
  • Tiverton Road
  • Norman Road
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