Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Lights Out!

We won! We got rid of the terrible lights! People said it couldn't be done but we did. Yesterday I spoke again at the Council Planning Board. Council at last voted to remove them! We had some mightily damning evidence (see speech and appendix below) and the Head of Transport and Planning didn't know where to put himself. I wonder if he will keep his job?

Can't wait to see the landscape back to its old self.

This is a victory for the environment. Thanks to all those who helped in whatever way - you know who you are. Here is the speech and eveidence in an appendix (not sure how to link to this, so it is here in full).

We, in common with others who love Sheffield’s unique situation next to the Peak Park, are concerned about the urbanisation of the city’s rural fringes within the green belt. These street lights erected in countryside, near open SSSI moorland on Totley Moss and Blacka Moor are huge, closely spaced, marching along the beautiful Baslow Road out towards Owler Bar for about ½ mile. By day they scar this road and by night they pollute the night skies and can be seen from high ground all around, including from within the Peak Park itself. Reducing the wattage and painting the standards grey is not enough.

The lights have been erected in connection with a new 30mph zone out of the city, in turn connected with understandable safety concerns about the new 97 bus terminus and the emergence of buses onto the main road. Many people believe this to be entirely the wrong solution - not only visually, but in terms of road safety. It has made the road more dangerous there is tailgating and overtaking as never before. This situation has resulted from an appalling catalogue of errors from start to finish and this continues to be the case, even with this latest report.

Firstly, with sensible discussion with the landlord, Enterprise Inns, First buses and SYPTE, it should not have been necessary to move the bus terminus from its site outside the Cross Scythes pub in the first place. The present and indeed past landlord had no objection to the buses turning there providing drivers turn off engines. Enterprise Inns were also open to negotiation. The present terminus is extremely costly and wasteful of energy.

Having decided to move the terminus out of the city to the end of Gillfield Wood and having erected the new lighting, Officers did not consult the Peak Park - as they should have under Section 62 of the Environment Act. Only when SPACE pointed this out and under pressure from the Peak Park Authority, did they meet – a meeting likened by one of the senior planners at the Peak Park Authority to an episode of Fawlty Towers.

The lights and speed limits were put in place after informal advice only – and very unclear advice at that – from Road Safety Officers. A proper Road Safety Audit was not completed until after the lights were erected and this merely tinkered with the existing new scheme. The lights were erected before the plans for the turning circle were passed by this Board. Similarly, the new 40mph buffer zone was instituted before it was passed by this Board. When SPACE pointed this out, 40mph signs had to be covered up! There were yet more minor errors – too numerous to mention here.

Now, to today’s report by John Bann, Director of Transport and Highways. Nearly every calculation and statistic justifying a speed limit of 30mph and the lighting after the event is wrong. And not only wrong, but shockingly and outrageously wrong. The sightline towards Totley is actually 3 times as long as their calculations - at 350 metres. The 30 mph zone is 4 times as long - 800 metres, not 200 metres. 7 of the 8 reportable accidents referred to happened in 2000 and 2001 before safety measures - chevrons and crash barriers - were put in place in November 2001. The sole reportable accident since that date was not due to losing control on bends. (Please see more about all these factual details in the Appendix). This 30 mph limit has resulted in frustrated drivers, tailgating and attempted overtaking as well as the terrible visual intrusion of the light standards and the lights themselves.

Although errors have been made at the lowest technical level, to our minds, the greater blame should be attached to those who took their eyes off the wider picture, particularly the need to consider visual and light pollution in the green belt of a city renowned for its marvellous countryside and its proximity to the Peak National Park.

We believe that this board should:

1. Question the competence of its officers throughout – for lack of proper procedure, for misleading the public, and for lack of basic ability in technical matters.

2. Reprimand these officers for using incorrect, misleading or unclear information and reports to justify the speed limit and lights after the event. Old accident statistics have also been used to justify these when road safety has since been vastly improved by other measures.

3. Reprimand Officers for lack of proper consultation. Many were shocked because it was unclear from public consultation that the lights would be a consequence of the new terminus. No consultation was carried out with the Peak Park Authority as it should have been according to the Environment Act.

4. Remove these appalling lights, apart from immediately around the terminus itself.

5. Institute a speed limit of 40mph all the way from Owler Bar (at present it is still 60 mph there) down to the junction with Lane Head Road and the first Totley houses. This is well within recommended safety guidelines for such a situation and actually safer than the present mix of 60, 40 and 30mph from Owler Bar and into Totley.

6. Enforce and encourage the 30 mph speed limit more effectively in Totley itself.

We have support for our campaign against the lights from many individuals, from CPRE, the Campaign for Dark Skies, local residents’ and wildlife organisations and officers from the Peak District National Park. They are creeping urbanisation at their worst and destroy the progression from country to city and back again - such a special thing in this wonderful green city of ours.


  1. This was a really splendid victory. The speech made interesting reading, well done indeed to all those who put their time and effort into opposing these appalling street lights.

  2. Hi Sally. Didn't know about this campaign - just saw your note on facebook! I drove in this way on Sunday and couldn't believe the new speed limit, but more particulalry the lights. They look atrocious.

    Well done


  3. A great result Sally, for you and for SPACE and for the cause of local people challenging dumb officialdom. This should be celebrated. This will be hated by 'them'.