Street Lighting PFI Questoins and Answers

  1. What is a PFI?
  2. What will the street lighting PFI mean?
  3. Why is Nottingham City Council using a PFI for the street lighting?
  4. Will I get to choose what type of column I get on my street?
  5. Will I get a say as to whether there is a street light outside my house?
  6. Will the lighting on my street be brighter?
  7. The lighting on my street is too bright, can it be turned down?
  8. What is being done to stop light intrusion?
  9. Will street lights be turned off early to save money/energy?
  10. Will there be more street lights because of the PFI?
  11. The City Council have just resurfaced my road; does this mean it will be dug up again?
  12. Will the new street lights go back in the same place as the old ones?
  13. Won't it be chaos when everywhere is dug up?
  14. When will the street lights on my road be replaced?
  15. Will all the street lights be replaced?
  16. If not replaced will lighting columns be painted?
  17. Will all concrete columns be replaced?
  18. Will we still be able to have our Neighbourhood Watch signs on lighting columns?
  19. Will the repair service be affected?
  20. Who will I have to call to report that a street light is not working?
  21. How much will Nottingham City Council have to pay towards this?
  22. Will Council Tax go up because of this?
  23. Will we still have festive lighting?

What is a PFI?

PFI means 'Private Finance Initiative' and it is a Government backed partnership between the Council and private companies. The private companies can borrow large amounts of money from banks to fund major improvements. The Council, with the Government's help, then gradually pays back the cost of this work to the private company over the length of contract - in this case 25 years, similar to a mortgage.

PFI schemes are not just about street lighting - they have been used to raise money for things like schools and hospitals in many parts of the country. It has been successfully used locally to help build Nottingham's tram network and some of its schools.

Generally, a PFI is a method by which an Authority transforms from being the owner and operator of something to a purchaser of a service from a private company. In the case of a Street Lighting PFI, the Council transfers to a private sector 'Service Provider' the responsibility for designing, installing, financing and operating the city's street lighting. The main benefit is that the City Council receives a large grant from the Government which is used to pay for the replacement of approximately 25,000 lighting units over a 5 year period. For the next 20 years, the Council pays the private operator to maintain the lighting, after which it reverts back to the responsibility of the Council.

What will the street lighting PFI mean?

During the first five years of the contract (running from September 2010 to August 2015 and referred to as the Core Investment Period), there will be significant changes to the lighting in the city. During this Core Investment Period, most of the ageing outdated street lighting columns in Nottingham will be replaced. There will still be one third of the columns in the city that will not need replacing as they are already of an acceptable standard which will be subject to a lantern conversion. Some technical changes will be made to improve the quality of light in residential areas, for example, outdated yellow lights will be replaced by better quality white lights. The white light source will be installed in all residential areas which will improve colour recognition, making it easier to see people's faces.

Why is Nottingham City Council using a PFI for the street lighting?

In Nottingham significant efforts have been made to replace older, outdated street lighting, in recent years. However, the council recognises the need for substantial further investment to improve all its street lighting columns, some 35,000, to get them up to the required standards, to enhance energy efficiency and modernise services to ensure that they contribute to improving road safety, reducing crime and the fear of crime and sustainability - all key priorities for Nottingham City Council. We have looked at several ways to achieve this and the PFI approach showed the greatest potential to deliver Best Value for the Council.

A PFI allows for a concentrated period of investment where all our old lighting columns would be replaced over the next five years with payments being spread over 25 years, rather like a mortgage.

Will I get to choose what type of column I get on my street?

Residents will be notified prior to the commencement of replacement works and given the opportunity to raise any concerns that they have with the Service Provider prior to installation.

As part of the Street Lighting PFI Contract, a detailed specification for the type and styles of lighting used throughout the City has been agreed between the Council and the Service Provider.

Therefore, to ensure an efficient and cost effective lighting scheme, there will be consistency of design e.g. residential streets will generally use columns of between 6/8m in height depending on the width of the street, with columns of between 10/12m used on major roads and traffic routes.

A separate specification for heritage/conservation areas within the City has been drawn up and details can be supplied upon request.

Will I get a say as to whether there is a street light outside my house?

In areas where the lighting is older, new designs will be necessary and the designers will follow guidelines, wherever possible, to place columns at property boundaries (i.e. the boundary line between two houses) rather than in line with windows, close to driveways, etc.

When it is time for the lights on your street to be replaced, the Service Provider will notify you prior to the commencement of works by delivering an information leaflet to your property, erecting advanced warning notices and marking up the street with the proposed column positions.  If you have any concerns when you receive this information or see marked out pavements then you should contact the Service Provider immediately to discuss your situation.  

Their contact details are:
Tel: 0800 096 6217
E-mail: lightsoninnottingham@ssecontracting.com
This information will also be provided in the information leaflet that they send to you.


Will the lighting on my street be brighter?

The lighting in a modern street light is a 'white light' compared to the yellow/orange light that we see around most of Nottingham at present.

White light is shown to make objects appear clearer and faces more recognisable even if lighting levels are lower. This is especially important for the elderly and those with poor eyesight.

As a rule lighting on residential roads and in the city centre will have White Lighting. Other roads/areas, such as main roads will, however, have high-pressure sodium lighting which has a golden/yellow appearance providing some colour recognition. These shouldn't be confused with orange light of low-pressure sodium lamps which will no longer be used in the city.

The lighting on my street is too bright, can it be turned down?

New street lighting will be designed in accordance with British Standards taking account of traffic flow, crime rate and the surrounding area. Therefore, it is not currently Council policy to reduce lighting levels below that specified in the British Standard.

What is being done to stop light intrusion?

Lighting control in modern street lights is much improved compared to the equipment available twenty years ago. Light is directed downwards to light the pavement and road as effectively as possible. If you encounter a specific problem with light intrusion (e.g. light shining into a bedroom window), the Service Provider can be contacted in order to discuss your concerns.  In certain circumstances, it may be possible for a shield to be fitted to a lantern to minimise the amount of glare/light intrusion you are experiencing.

Will street lights be turned off early to save money/energy?

Nottingham is a 24 hour city and so street lighting is required at all times, even in the early hours of the morning. Unlike a few County Councils that are in rural areas, it would not be practical or safe for the City Council to switch off the street lights at set times.

The City Council is committed to making Nottingham a safer city and the contribution that street lighting provides in reducing the fear of crime and increasing road safety is vital. Although we will not switch off the lights at set times, we will save energy through the use of more energy efficient apparatus and good design practices.

Will there be more street lights because of the PFI?

There may be a change in the number of street lighting columns where older installations have to be redesigned to meet modern lighting standards.

This could mean either an increase or decrease in the number of lighting columns required to light your street in the most energy efficient manner possible.

The City Council have just resurfaced my road; does this mean it will be dug up again?

In most of the city the columns will be replaced on a 'one for one' basis and therefore the need to dig up the pavement will be minimal. If possible, new street lights will be placed in the same position as the old ones. However, if the existing street light is near the edge of the pavement, then the new columns will generally be installed at the back of it. This is to help prevent lighting columns from being knocked down in the future.

Where new street lighting is installed the electricity for these is taken from the nearest available source, but in most instances it should only mean a small area of pavement will need to be resurfaced and made good. This work will all be carried out by the Service Provider.

Will the new street lights go back in the same place as the old ones?

All streets and roads will be looked at in terms of design, based on these designs each street will be assessed on existing positions and where possible existing positions will be used in order to save costs of service transferals.

Won't it be chaos when everywhere is dug up?

The replacement of street lighting in Nottingham will be carried out over five years. Each year the Service Provider will provide a programme of works that will outline the areas where the lighting will be replaced during the following year. The City Council's Network Management Team, who are tasked with co-ordinating all roadworks within Nottingham, will ensure that the Service Provider's works do not conflict with any other works that may be taking place.

The Service Provider will let residents know when work is being carried out on their street. During the five years when the street lighting is being replaced, the work will be evenly distributed over all of the city's areas and most columns will be installed or replaced in a matter of days.

When will the street lights on my road be replaced?

The replacement of street lighting columns throughout the whole city will be carried out over five years. With such a large scheme it is difficult to state when an individual street will be improved during that period. However, each year the Service Provider will provide a programme of works which outlines the areas that will be improved during the following year.

Once the Service Provider has drawn up the programme of works for the following year, they will be able to let residents on the streets where they are proposing to work know when the improvements will be carried out.

Will all the street lights be replaced?

No. In the past ten years the City Council has installed more than 10,000 columns. Many of these will be up to the required standards and so will not be replaced.

Many new street lights are in areas of high crime or covered by CCTV cameras. It is proposed that the lanterns that are situated in residential areas, will be changed to 'white light', to bring them up to the same standard as the new installed columns.

If not replaced will lighting columns be painted?

The Service Provider will continue to maintain all of the street lighting columns over the 25 year contract; this includes the repainting of lighting columns.

Will all concrete columns be replaced?

Yes, all concrete columns will be replaced during the first five years of the contract.

Will we still be able to have our Neighbourhood Watch signs on lighting columns?

The Service Provider will have a duty to replace all signs taken off old street lights and replace them onto the new ones.  Any signs damaged prior to the commencement of works will not be transferred and the Neighbourhood Watch officer notified.

Will the repair service be affected?

The Service Provider will have to meet strict performance targets, which are no less than those currently in operation.

Who will I have to call to report that a street light is not working?

Faults can be reported in a number of ways:
By phone - 0800 096 6217
By e-mail - nottinghampfienquiries@ssecontracting.com
Through the website - www.lightsoninnottingham.co.uk

How much will Nottingham City Council have to pay towards this?

The existing street lighting budget will go towards the cost as well as up to an additional £1.7 million that the Council has committed towards street lighting improvements.

Will Council Tax go up because of this?

The PFI is a Government backed partnership between the Council and private companies. The private companies can borrow large amounts of money from banks to fund major improvements. The Council, with the Government's help, then gradually pays back the cost of this work to the private company over the length of contract - in this case 25 years, rather like a mortgage.

The existing street lighting budget will go towards the cost of paying the PFI Service Provider back each year as well up to an additional £1.7 million that the Council has budgeted towards street lighting improvements.

When the council sets its priorities it allocates its resources accordingly. The modest additional cost for the massive improvements to street lighting is a corporate priority and the costs have already been included in the Council's medium term financial plan and so it is unlikely that Council Tax will be directly affected.

Will we still have festive lighting?

Christmas decorations and other festive street lighting will remain the responsibility of the City Council and so festive lighting will continue throughout the City.

Although the installation of festive lighting was carried out by the Street Lighting Team of the City Council, the responsibility has been transferred to the Service Provider. The contract to install festive lighting will form part of the PFI, as part of the contract process the Council have negotiated the most effective way to install, maintain and remove the festive lighting.

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