I need to lie down in a dark room. John Brautigam of Llanfyllin has just incapacitated my ability to reason. My brain has seized up. John has been enlightening me about the background to the 'Street Lighting in Powys' debate. Probably reached first base, where I have a clearer idea of what I need a clearer idea about. I've asked my office to arrange an urgent meeting with the most appropriate officer at Powys County Council and Cllr. Gwilym Evans, the appropriate councillor to discuss the issue. Am willing to move my diary around to fit in.
There are two general issues to understand - the first being how the Council reached the position where councillors decide that 67% of street lights must be switched off, with minimal consultation, and maximum disruption to community activity. The background involves a sensible report delivered in 2005, which eventually led to what I consider a very unsensible action - following massive annual increases in the bill sent to the Council from its electricity suppliers. In particular, I'm interested in the role played by something called the Office of Government Commerce, a division of the Treasury - and whether these massive annual increases were influenced by a Government decision to raise money, over and above the cost of power. The bottom of this could well prove impossible to reach. But one must try.
The second issue concerns where we go from here. In the very short term, the Council is returning to the site of the 'switch-off' carnage, to reduce damage to community activity be changing around the lights which are doubted. Sensible enough - as far as it goes. But what next. Seems to me the ideal position would be that more lights were switched back on, part-night lighting be introduced and a programme of switching to LED arrays is implemented. Now you may well ask, what on earth is an LED array. Well, I remember LEDs from about 30 years ago, when our no 1 son, Edward, then about 8 years old, was obsessed by electricity and wouldn't stop going on about Light Emitting Diodes. He even persuaded his younger brother, Patrick, who had no interest whatsoever in things electric, to spend his pocket money buying LEDs. So there's nothing new about LEDs. And I'm told an 'array' is the word that replaces a 'bulb in that an LED light is made up of several sources of light.
I'm told that the Council has been considering switching to LED street lighting for some time, but there is a high capital installation cost - and it cannot be afforded. These things have a short pay-back period, because an 'array' operates at 20 watts, rather than the 90 watts needed for the current sodium lights. And the new Phillips LED array will deliver 12 years trouble free lighting, saving hugely on maintenance. I have lots of paper to read, and I'll post again on this. My aim is to become insufferably knowledgeable about this. Its a hugely important issue in Powys, which has implications for all lighting authorities across the UK.