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Stratford-on-Avon District Council
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Domestic Security Lighting

Domestic Security Lighting

Since the first cave dweller discovered fire, mankind has used light as a defence against animals and other predators. It is now simple and cheap to provide and operate outdoor lighting, which would have amazed our ancestors by the amount of light produced.

Well designed, installed and maintained security lights bring comfort and well-being to our lives providing us with a sense of security in our homes. However, much security lighting is installed without due consideration of its suitability for the task and its effects on neighbours and the environment. Domestic security lights should provide the minimum level of illumination necessary to light a property. Whilst you may be happy with a light that illuminates half the street, your neighbours may not.

The price and ease of installation cause many people to install tungsten halogen floodlights. These units can provide satisfactory security lighting if correctly installed and aimed, however, it is rarely necessary to use a lamp of greater than 2000 lumens (150W) in such fittings. The use of a higher power only causes more glare and darker shadows. Glare affects our ability to see and dark shadows offer a convenient hiding place for miscreants.

Many of these floodlights are fitted with detectors to sense the movement of intruders. Unfortunately, if badly installed, they also detect small animals roaming around the garden causing the light to switch on and off throughout the night. This can be a nuisance to neighbours.

Movement detectors can be useful if they are correctly installed and aimed. Unfortunately, many systems do not allow the detector to be separately aimed from the floodlight.

Floodlights and detectors should be aimed to only detect and light people on your property. They should not detect a person or animals walking down the street.

For many properties, a better soluction for security lighting is to use a bulkhead or porch lights fitted with a low power 600-900 lumens (9/11w) compact fluorescent lamp. These units can be left lit all night, providing all night security, for only a few pounds of electricity per year.

Besides being cheap to run, this type of light is kinder to the environment providing a gentle wash of light with reduced glare. Bulkhead and porch lights cast few shadows reducing the hiding places. These units can be fitted with a movement detector if required. These units are generally mounted lower and are therefore less susceptible to nuisance switching and complaints from neighbours.

When aiming floodlights make sure you only light the area that needs lighting. The aim of the floodlight can easily be checked at night when you can see the actual area being lit. Be careful not to put light onto other peoples' properties or into windows as this can be very upsetting and a constant source of complaint.

If a neighbour does complain, you could adjust the light to shine in a different direction or angle it down to reduce the light onto or into their property. If after adjusting the angle and aim of the floodlight it is still causing annoyance and upset, then consider fitting a hood or shield to control and restrict the light to the area to be lit.

Artificial Light & The Law

New Developments

The best method of dealing with light pollution is at the planning stage. This is an ideal time to influence the design or installation of lighting schemes. However, not all developments require planning consent. Those that do are developments involving the carrying out of building engineering or which involve making material cahnges to existing buildings or land.

Existing Developments

Local authorities receiving complaints about artificial light in England can now assess whether the light is a nuisance under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. The Act extends the nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to cover artificial light emitted from premises - including domestic and commercial security lights, some healthy living and sports facilities and domestic decorative lighting; artificial lighting from transport facilities, freight depots, lighthouses, prisons and defence premises is excluded. Civil action can also be taken by an individual to tackle a lighting problem. He/she would have to be able to prove that a nuisance existed. A nuisance can be described as an adverse state of affairs which interferes with an individual's use and enjoyment of his or her property.

What Can You Do?

1. Tackle the source -

First, approach the owner of the lighting. Often the remedy is quite simple. A minor adjustment may be all that is required, or maybe an agreement about when lights should be turned on or off.

Remember to be considerate in your own design and installation of lighting systems.

2. Environmental Health

If the owner of the lighting is unwilling to remedy the situation to your satisfaction, contact the Environmental Protection Team on 01789 267575. They will investigate your complaint and, if they agree that the light is a nuisance, they will contact the offender - informally at first, but with an abatement notice if necessary. If the offender fails to comply with the notice, proceedings can be taken in the Magistrates' Court.

3. Planning Officer

The Planning Officer has an important role before developments take place. If you have concerns about proposals that may contribute to light pollution contact your local government Planning office.

4. Mediation

Nuisance disputes can often be resolved informally. Many areas have mediation services that can help you resolve disputes with owners of neighbouring properties. This may prove quicker than the legislative route. We may be able to put you in touch with a mediation service.

5. Take Legal Action

If all else fails, contact a solicitor to find out what action may be appropriate to deal with your complaint.