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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 7:56 pm 
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Part 1: who owns street lighting in the UK

In order to understand the different authorities who own and manage street lighting in the UK, we must understand the structure of government in the UK. The UK is increasingly fragmented in terms of government. The UK is formed of four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the structure of local government is different in each.

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In Northern Ireland things are simple; there is one authority responsible for all of Northern Ireland's roads - the Department for Infrastructure. There are district councils in Northern Ireland, but these do not have public lighting responsibilities (although I stand to be corrected, there is a chance district councils may maintain some localised lighting such as in council-operated car parks).

In Scotland things are also fairly simple. Strategic roads and their street lighting are maintained by Transport Scotland, and there are 5 "units", 4 DBFO contracts (Design Build Finance Operate), plus a further contract with the name Aberdeen Roads Ltd. Non-strategic roads and their lighting are maintained by 1 of 32 unitary authorities (single-tier authorities).

In Wales the situation is similar to Scotland. The management of strategic roads and their street lighting is split into two areas; North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent, and South Wales Trunk Road Agent. Non-strategic roads and their lighting are maintained by 1 of 22 principal areas (single-tier authorities).

In England the situation is very fragmented and complicated. In Greater London, strategic roads and their lighting (excluding motorways) are maintained by Transport for London, and these strategic roads are split into 5 "areas" plus 1 DBFO contract. Non-strategic roads in London are maintained by 1 of 32 London Boroughs or the City of London [Council].

In the rest of England strategic roads and their lighting are managed by Highways England, and their strategic road network is split into 12 "areas" and 11 DBFO contracts. Highways England also maintain motorways within Greater London. Non-strategic roads and their lighting are maintained by a variety of differing authorities. Firstly, there are 55 unitary authorities in England plus the Isles of Scilly [single-tier authority] who each look after their own roads and lighting. Secondly, there are 27 non-metropolitan [two-tier] counties, whereby the county councils manage their roads and lighting. It is worth noting at this point that unitary authorities were a 1990s creation whereby local authorities effectively declared independence from their county councils. Hence, it is possible to find unitary authorities within counties. Furthermore, in recent years some non-metropolitan counties have been converted into unitary authorities. Within non-metropolitan counties there is a level of government below the county councils known as district councils, and there are 201 of these non-metropolitan districts in England. In some cases, district councils maintain a limited amount of public lighting, typically focused on council-operated car parks. Alongside non-metropolitan counties are 6 Metropolitan Counties, and these are split into 36 Metropolitan Boroughs. Unlike within non-metropolitan counties, roads and lighting are the responsibility of the individual Metropolitan Boroughs. To add further complication, there is an even lower tier of local government across England in the form of Parish Councils (in some cases known as Town Councils), of which there are thousands. Parish Councils do not exist in all parts of England, and they tend not to be found in urban areas. Some Parish Councils own and maintain their own street lighting.

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Here is an English example: Chichester in West Sussex. The A27 around the city is a strategic road, maintained by Highways England Area 4. West Sussex is a non-metropolitan county, and most street lighting is owned by and maintained on behalf of West Sussex County Council. Chichester is contained within Chichester District Council, and Chichester District Council also owns street lighting, generally in council-owned car parks in Chichester city. Just outside of the city is the village of Southbourne, which has its own parish called Southbourne Parish. This Parish Council also owns street lighting. Hence, lighting in Chichester and the surrounding area is maintained by Highways England, the county council, the district council, plus a few parish councils including the one mentioned.

Second English example: Southampton in Hampshire. The M3, M27 and M271 motorways around Southampton are strategic roads, maintained by Highways England Area 3. Southampton falls within Southampton City Council, which is a Unitary Authority that gained independence from Hampshire in 1997. There are no parishes within Southampton. Hence, lighting in Southampton is only maintained by Highways England or Southampton City Council.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:29 pm 
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An interesting topic which as you say can become very fragmented. This is before we even consider the further dilution of the service, due to the numerous PFI deals as well as those authorities who have put their street lighting obligations out to tender.

I suppose another area which whilst not strictly in the same league would be the large number of private installations, such as those found in the controversial leasehold housing estates being built. Finally, there are the miles of perimeter street lighting, sometimes long obsolete yet still to be found in industrial and Government establishments.

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"As we moved along in a little procession, I was delighted with the illumination of the streets. So many lamps and they burned until morning, my father said, and so people did not need to carry lanterns."
Mary Antin - US author & activist. 1881-1949.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 11:13 am 
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Thanks Steve!

When it comes to the ceremonial county of Devon, Plymouth and Torquay are both unitary within its boundaries. However, the MRL6 prevailed as the standard choice for main road lighting, with ZX1/U1s for minor roads for a very long time - this was across the ceremonial country, irrespective of unitary Plymouth and Torquay versus the non-metropolitan county of Devon.

I PMed Davy about this back in 2014 and managed to dig out his response:

"There's probably something in the fact that SEC had all the contracts so we had stocks of MRLs and it made sense for everyone to use a common lantern across all contracts"


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2017 8:27 am 
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Interesting read Steve ;) , I know what you mean too, back when I was a kid, your local council did the street lighting, they had the name of the council on the doors of the cherry pickers, and they were all yellow!, today however, some of the maintenance teams round here will have Cheshire East on the vans, sometimes you see Bam Nuttall, and sometime its just an unmarked, White cherry picker with a thin yellow stripe down it!

Its all very confusing to know who does what today??


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