SOME Swanage residents are taking a dim view of upgrades to their street lighting, writes Sara Niven.
A shift from outdated orange sodium lamps to more cost-effective blue-intense white LED bulbs has been flagged up as light pollution and even a potential health risk, with claims the council is ignoring residents’ concerns and contravening its own lighting policy.
“The luminaries the new bulbs are being installed into don’t restrict the light emission as they should, so intense white light known as ‘spill light’ goes everywhere,” says Dr Gavin Rider, a resident of Bon Accord Road, where the new lighting has been in place since the summer.
“This is recognised as an issue by the Institute of Lighting Professionals (ILP) and there is international guidance on how to prevent it.
“But Dorset County Council are instead creating it.”
Dr Rider, a physicist, says that in addition to the excessive light created, the bulbs are also being installed in environmental zones that are not in keeping with the council’s own lighting policy.
“They have classified this street as falling into E3 – a more urban area with greater amount of spill light allowed than E2, which I would see as far more appropriate for a residential part of Swanage like this.”
He has spent several months contacting Dorset County Council over his concerns and forwarding them numerous scientific reports and papers in support. These include findings about exposure to artificial light at night (ALAN) supressing melatonin levels in humans and being been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer and other conditions including depression and diabetes.
Dr Rider says he has not had any satisfactory answers and claims that following the council’s response to him making an official complaint, his emails are now being blocked.
Dr Rider’s neighbour, Paul Venn, a retired IT specialist, has a streetlamp just outside his house and says the light floods his upper floors to the point it is impossible to sleep.
“It is a horrible, intrusive light and the situation has been getting worse as the nights get darker.
“A representative from the contractor that installed the new bulbs came out and did a light reading which they inform us prove it falls within an accepted range, but it doesn’t tally with the readings Dr Rider and myself did using apps on our phones, which showed it is excessive.
“We have told the council about the health risks associated with this kind of blue light and are basically being completely ignored.”
A Dorset Council spokesperson said that the council was fully aware of the concerns raised by Dr Rider and Mr Venn, and had previously responded at length, adding: “There is no credible scientific evidence to suggest any legitimate health dangers around our approach to LED street lighting, despite the many conspiracy theories and misinformation campaigns found online, especially via social media.
“Our lights comply with British Standards and our own lighting policy, the latter of which is very similar to – and often better than – most other authorities nationally, and there is no danger to the public.
“We now consider the matter closed.”