All day street light mystery is solved

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Sub-heading: Residents ask why there is a light that never goes out

By Colin Smeeton

The mystery of why street lights across Arran have been switched on for 24 hours a day for almost a month has been solved.

It seems a central fault means that if the lights were turned off there would be no streetlighting at all.

The burning question was answered by a council bosses this week after residents, who at first suspected the street lamps were switched on for daytime repairs, started reporting the fault in their areas after noticing that lights were still on after several weeks.

A fault throughout the network, which allows for the remote operation of the lights, has been blamed and the contractor, who operates the systems for council, has had to leave them switched on for 24 hours a day rather than them not being lit at night.

And the problem, it has been revealed,  extends further than Arran  including Cumbrae and large parts of mainland North Ayrshire, which are controlled by the same central management system, also affected.

Allaying any fears that rate payers would be footing the bill for the electricity wastage, North Ayrshire Council clarified the situation by explaining that street lighting is not metered and that the energy costs are billed based on an inventory of units which is updated annually with the energy companies.

This means that the same bill is paid regardless of whether there are faults on the system resulting in lights being out or even switched on all the time.

Owing to the widespread nature of the fault and a determination to resolve the issue as rapidly as possible – and to conserve electricity being wasted – the council have been overseeing a large scale operation to rectify the situation.

Teams are having to visit the areas affected and manually remedy the automation which, thankfully for them, can be undertaken by groupings of areas rather than individual street lights.

A North Ayrshire Council spokeswoman said: ‘Our LED street lighting is managed remotely using technology which allows the lighting to be controlled centrally.

‘However, our contractor who operates the system is currently experiencing difficulties and is unable to provide the same level of remote service.  This is affecting lighting on the mainland, Arran and Cumbrae where lighting has required to be set to ‘on’ in the interests of public safety.

‘This is a temporary solution and our officers are currently working extremely hard across our entire lighting network to manually amend affected lighting to operate to a more appropriate time schedule.

‘We envisage these works to be completed in the next few weeks.’

In 2014 the council approved plans to spend over £4 million on the programme to replace old style street lighting across the region with modern LED bulbs which use less electricity and reduce maintenance costs.

While the previous bulbs needed to be replaced every four years the new bulb technology only needs replacing every 20 years. Costs for keeping the 13,500 lights burning in North Ayrshire, in 2014, cost £870,000 per annum but it was estimated that due to energy savings the replacement would pay for themselves in six years.

At the time Arran had a reported 527 lighting units which were replaced and switched  to the central management systems as part of the infrastructure replacement programme.

A row of street lights in Brodick which have been lit for nearly a month. 01_B17lights01