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Lamp post shortage bites

A national lamp post shortage has been triggered by PFI lighting contractors bulk-buying lighting columns, it was revealed this week.

This has left some local authorities unable to replace ageing columns.

"Demand for equipment is very high," said one consultant who advises on PFI street lighting schemes. "Some authorities have had difficulties."

In total, since street lighting was flagged as a good candidate for PFI in 2002, 25 schemes have been approved.

More major projects are also in the pipeline. The Department for Transport recently awarded PFI credits to Oldham and Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Councils for a joint 25 year, £140M street lighting PFI (NCE 1 November).

County Surveyors' Society's (CSS) UK Lighting Board chairman Roger Elphick said he was aware of growing delays in delivering columns and this may have much to do with the sheer number of lamp posts that are past their design life.

Elphick said the design life of a typical street lamp column was between 25 and 30 years, but a survey in 2006 found that 1.5M out of 6.1M lighting columns in England were 40 or more years old.

Elphick said that in 2006, he estimated that there was a funding backlog of £1.1bn to replace ageing lighting columns.

"We are working on the risk management of lighting columns. Priority columns are generally the older ones or those by the sea, which suffer from the more corrosive environment."

The dearth of lighting columns is so pronounced that large PFI schemes have found columns in short supply.

One local authority contacted by NCE is about to let its PFI contract.

The authority was concerned their contractor would be unable to secure columns and has looked at securing some from abroad and lengthening the installation period to combat the problem.

6.1M
Lighting columns in England

1.5M
Are 40 or more years old

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