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Heavens above: Liverpool seen in whole new light

Thousands of street lamps to be replaced with LEDs in £7m plan for starry, starry nights. But are they a health risk?

Published on February 13th 2014.

Heavens above: Liverpool seen in whole new light

ARE the stars out tonight? Do you know if it's cloudy or bright?”

Not in most bits of Merseyside, unfortunately. Light pollution sucks, especially if you're the sort who likes to stare up at the long arm of the Milky Way or wish upon a passing meteor shower. 

But that might be about to change.


Thousands of Liverpool’s ageing street lights are to be replaced with low-energy emititing LED bulb in a £7m “investment” that Liverpool City Council claim will produce millions of pounds of savings to the city. 

The scheme will deliver major environmental benefits, it adds, including reduced carbon emission and night time pollution. 

The council’s cabinet is to consider a recommendation that more than 20,000 of the existing yellow sodium lights, which have concrete posts, be replaced with LED lights on steel columns.  

Warm glow: old style sodium lights %28pic: Eric Scigliano%29Spot the difference: old style sodium lights (pic: Eric Scigliano)

The scheme, it estimates, will save the city £2.7m over its first five years. 

“This is good news in every respect,” says Councillor Tim Moore, cabinet member for transport and climate change. “It means we will have improved lighting levels where we are introducing the new lights, making those areas safer. 

“We will be a greener city as the level of CO2 emissions will be significantly reduced and night-time pollution will be cut.”

It is intended to replace 12,000 of the existing lights during 2014/15 with waterfront residential areas being targeted first. This, says the council, is is an area which has the greatest impact from salt and rain, causing the street lights to have the highest failure rate and the highest costs in replacement. A second phase, during 2015/6 will involve installing 8,000 LED lights in residential areas and replacing 1,380 older lights along key corridor routes. 

In each of these phases, it says, there will be an 82pc reduction in energy consumption, producing savings of £533,000 per year. 

Such LED schemes are gaining in popularity around the country, but are not without their critics. 

Over in Greater Manchester, Trafford Council has stalled its plan to roll out a similar programme after a resident mounted a high court challenge, raising health concerns about the white light LEDs emit while questioning the projected cash savings. 

Research by scientists from Madrid University suggests that light emitted by LEDs could damage retinas, especially of children, while an American study found that the lights could suppress melatonin, a brain hormone that regulates sleep. They are also thought by some scientists to disrupt circadian rhythms which have have also been linked with cancer. 

Trafford has been forced to launch a review, despite previously saying the lights were safe, reports the Manchester Evening News. 

LED_Streetlights-QA_1_Fit_600X600Blue is the colour: New style LED lamps (Pic by Eric Scigliano)

However, back in Liverpool, Cllr Moore says: “There will be long-term financial benefits to council taxpayers with energy and maintenance costs being significantly reduced. We will be using capital funding to pay for this programme but we really are investing in the city’s infrastructure to make considerable savings.” 

If the programme here is approved, work will start shortly with the first phase taking about eight months to complete. It will be considered by the cabinet on 21 February.

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26 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Dixie DeanFebruary 14th 2014.

Not content with bathing Everton Park in blue, now the Mayor is rolling the colour of his favourite team across the city. We're not daft, you know!

AnonymousFebruary 14th 2014.

Someone needs to shed a bit of light on this one. Look at the internet and you'll see council's across the country are all going for these new (iffy) LED street lights. It's as though councillors are saying, stuff the cutbacks, and the closures of libraries and childrens centres, we've got to have the latest municipal accessory, a new toy to play with. So did, by some process of osmosis, did somebody in Liverpool and elsewhere just happen to pick up the phone to make an enquiry? Or did a company eager to flog these lights as the best thing since candles, approach the councils? The fact there is also a lot of scientists expressing concerns about the potential for health problems with these lights should raise alarm bells. For sure Liverpool City Council should wait and see what happens up the road in Manchester where there is a legal challenge. In the past LCC has signed contracts and been stuck with them, suffering the consequences. What's the rush? This is deffo something that needs to be delayed, or better still pull the plug on it altogether. Sadly there is nobody at the council willing or able to challenge this.

AnonymousFebruary 15th 2014.

One minute the mayor is saying we are skint and don't have two pennies to rub together, then we are splashing out on new trendy lights. You cant have it both ways. So the plan is to approve it next Friday (done deal already!) and then work will start soon after. No chance for public engagement or involvement. Typical of the way things are done these days in this city.

1 Response: Reply To This...
mickeydrippin'February 16th 2014.

I don't think the mayor is saying that Liverpool is skint. He is merely having to make the savings that have been forced upon the city by the ConDem government. Surely, by switching to energy-efficient LED street lighting now could save Liverpool a great deal of money in the future.

AnonymousFebruary 15th 2014.

We have listened to the people of Liverpool and asked them questions about poverty, unemployment, housing, health and the slashing of council services, the closure of libraries, sports and leisure centres, getting rid of school crossings and sure start centres. The overwhelming response from the people was that their main priority was replacing the yellow street lights with blue LED ones.

Phil AmentFebruary 15th 2014.

Blue? Mind you they'll have to be really cheap and nasty LEDs to be cheaper than sodium lights. I thought that they would at least be white...

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 16th 2014.

Joe Anderson is an Everton fan

TheoFebruary 17th 2014.

Maybe we could have a "Red Light District"

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Mary HingeFebruary 17th 2014.

The Council was going to put the red light district in Kempston Street

AnonymousFebruary 17th 2014.

Behind the Town Hall would make more sense

Rachel BurtonFebruary 26th 2014.

what gets me is the health risks haven't been taken into consideration at all. My daughter has photosensitive epilepsy-L E D lights flicker causing her to have a fit . I myself am also photosensitive so a stroll down an L E D light street could land us both in hospital.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyFebruary 27th 2014.

LED's don't naturally flickers. The ones used for mode indicators, etc. Do flickers because they are switched on & off too rapidly to save power.

Simon NicholasFebruary 27th 2014.

Its a complex subject matter, but the reality is that there's nothing eco-friendly about dumping perfectly good existing street lights in the skip - to replace them with expensive LEDs which give off an environmentally damaging and unhealthy output in the blue part of the spectrum. Technically its slightly 'easier' to see and night in blue light of high-CCT LED than orange/pink of sodium so it allows the council to get away with reducing overall lighting levels - while their PR machine tells us all that its 'better' and more energy efficient - when in fact its not, we'll all be walking around in blue-tinged semi-darkness! Many studied have show that blue light at night is bad for humans and animals as it wrecks our sleep cycles - but the LED companies don't want us to know that as they're happy coining in millions of pounds of our money by selling this unneccessary equipment. One day it will all come out, and there'll be a public outcry - and they'll make even more millions replacing them with something much healthier. What a con, but the politicians are too ill informed to see it.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyFebruary 27th 2014.

Then buy the lighting with non white LEDs remove the blue. The light will be yellow. The money saved comes from a more efficient conversion of electricity to light, and longer bulb life. No one has questions that The article you quote bellow ends with "There’s no question that LED lighting can be used wisely to make everyone happy – stargazers, drivers, shoppers and walkers."

Simon NicholasFebruary 27th 2014.

Try this for starters ......... www.universetoday.com/…/…

Simon NicholasFebruary 27th 2014.

I've just seen the bit at start about the night sky. Oh dear, LEDs are bad here too: www.darksky.org/…/IDA-Blue-Rich-Light-White-Paper.pdf… www.flagstaffdarkskies.org/…/…

1 Response: Reply To This...
Dixie DeanFebruary 28th 2014.

And here we are led to believe that we'll be able to see the Milky Way. Thank you for that Simon. Someone is raking in a pretty profit from all this, no doubt.

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2014.

Be wary with all these links, they make ignorant enthusiasts sound knowledegable www.flickr.com/…/…

Simon NicholasFebruary 27th 2014.

... ....and we're all supposed to take the advice of someone who won't even give theire name?

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2014.

Theire theire (sic) sweety, don't get excited, most of the "names" are made up anyway!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Sue DonymFebruary 27th 2014.

No they're not!

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2014.

7 million for this stuff yet somehow there's no money for libraries in certain parts of town i.e. not Allerton...does Joe Anderson have shares in the LED company

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