Thursday, November 30, 2006

Creating Safer, Better Lit Streets

About half the streetlights in Southampton have concrete cancer and need replacing.

The money being spent at the moment barely covers the costs of reactive repairs and energy, and there was until recently no programme of planned replacements.

In 2000 the proportion of columns in Southampton over 30 years old was 54%, twice the national average, and a report in 2003 estimated that an investment of some £1M would be required annually ad infinitum to bring the stock eventually within its 25 year design life.

The City Council is bidding for Government money (PFI credits) to finance the replacement of Southampton's streetlights. There is a pot of £600m put aside by Government for the whole country and the Council is hoping to be awarded about £1m of this money to replace 28,000 streetlights and illuminated road signs.

Southampton's Conservative Councillors in principle approve of this proposal, especially insofar as it involves new or extra money. In addition we feel that this opens up lots of additional opportunities. We would like to see the business community informed and involved so far as possible. They may have a real contribution to make. There is talk of advertising revenue, commercial use of the columns, and that kind of thing.

Other ideas and benefits include, prevention of crime, promotion of public safety, prevention of accidents and more efficient use of energy.

Other councils have introduced new streetlights with plugs fitted to the top to which Wireless (WiFi) CCTV cameras can be attached. This would allow CCTV to be put in where there is problem with crime in an area. Cameras could be removed and put elsewhere if the problems are then resolved.

In effect this would mean, for very little cost, CCTV cameras could be put in any area of the city to reduce crime and catch criminals. This would have a big impact on dealing with crime and disorder.

I have proposed that WiFi CCTV is included in the Council's PFI bid and am delighted that this has been agreed.

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